This December, my Kiwanis Club rang bells for the Salvation Army. My wife (Claudia) and I both signed up for a couple of shifts. The weather was nippy so we wore warm sweaters and socks and took gloves. We were both determined to ring bells and collect money to help people, not freeze to death.
We set our kettle in front of Safeway and started ringing. In times past we would bring a CD player and play Christmas Carols, but our portable player was broken. My wife started singing and I joined in without any accompanying music.
People smiled at us, some stopped and joined us in song. It was fun and people opened their wallets.
"All of this money stays local." I'd say.
"Thank You… Merry Christmas… God Bless."
Some would respond with "Happy Holidays, others with a "Merry Christmas."
A lady walked up to my wife, and gave her a hug. She had tears in her eyes as she exclaimed: "You're angels! I think it's so wonderful what you're doing!"
Another lady walked out of the store. She opened her purse and put a $20 bill in my wife's kettle. "I thought that I'd lost my purse, but someone in the store found it. I'm so thankful. Our Christmas would've been really bleak if someone hadn't returned my purse."
I didn't ask her why it would be bleak, but I surmised that she probably had all of her Christmas money in it.
A SUV pulled up to my wife and the window rolled down. The lady told my wife: "Someone handed me this wad of money as I was getting into my car and told me 'Merry Christmas.' I didn't know what to do with it, so I'm going to pass it on!"
My wife thanked her and put the folded money into our Salvation Army Kettle.
It's not uncommon for people to put money into our kettles and then say something like. "The Salvation Army helped me when I needed help, and I'd like to give something back," but this is the first time that I can remember anyone giving us money because they didn't know what to do with it.
I enjoy bell ringing; I enjoy meeting new people and also seeing people that I know. I am quite used to hearing people say "Hi Bill. I'll put money in the bucket when I finish shopping." Or more often when spotted by a friend "It's about time you're involved with something worthwhile."
Claudia and I were ringing our bells in unison and singing Jingle Bells when a young friend exited the store. Our "friend" was a recent High School graduate, and both Claudia and I thought her to be someone quite special. Niki had dark hair and was a very attractive 19.
"Hi" she said. "I recognize you guys."
I would not have thought anything about this statement, if it had come from anyone else, but this girl was different.
Two years ago Niki was involved in a near fatal auto accident. No one thought that she would survive. Niki was in a coma for several months and surprised everyone by recovering. She suffered severe mental trauma and her brain had to find new nerve pathways in order to process information. Her memory was spotty and she had to learn how to walk and to talk all over again. She had no memory of the auto accident. She couldn't remember anything or recognize anyone, including her own family. She was unable to speak.
I remember last year seeing her at Church and in High School walking with a cane. I recall saying "Hello Niki" and have her look blankly at me and ask "Do I know you?"
She didn't have a cane anymore, and had managed to recover much of her memory. That evening Niki was returning from work and had stopped by the grocery store on her way home. She also recognized both Claudia and I.
Niki motioned toward our Salvation Army Kettle. "I think that it's great that you're getting money to help people."
"I feel good about what we do." I responded. "All the money that we collect will be used to help local families. Our Kiwanis Holiday Hope program has 70 more families this. We helped well over a 1100 people last year and the need now is greater than ever."
"I always wanted to ring bells," remarked Niki.
I brightened: "I just so happen to have an extra bell."
Niki beamed as I handed her a bell. The three of us all proceeded to ring bells and sing Christmas songs as people walked by and put money in our Salvation Army kettle.
Some time passed, and Niki finally said. "I like volunteering, but I'd better get home. My mom expected me about an hour ago, and I'm afraid that if I'm not home soon she'll call the police and report me missing."
"Thank you so much for helping" said my wife.
"Oh I want to help," responded Niki. "Before my accident, I never used to think much about what I was doing. I know now that God gave me back my life and I now appreciate every day and every moment of my day. I am very, very thankful for being alive."
Nicki waved to us "See you both in Church Sunday."
I appreciate the opportunity to ring bells for the Salvation Army. It is a privilege to be able to serve.
There is a joy in "Caring and Sharing,"
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