Bell-ringing tip: Toe warmers, smile
Patti Fowler said I should get toe warmers. I thanked her for the advice as we sat around the Rotary Club table Monday, then again as I rang the Salvation Army bell at Wal-Mart later in the day.
Toe warmers worked, sort of, but not nearly as well as the smiles on the faces of caring shoppers coming and going from America's marketplace.
The temperature stood at freezing - 32 degrees - when I took over from Darlene Ziegler at 4 p.m. Other DAILY employees preceded her, starting with Clint Shelton at 9 a.m. Kristen Bishop followed him. Then came Denice Sandlin, John Godbey, Darren Mack, and Crystal Brown.
John came in from vacation to ring the bell for an hour.
By the time my shift ended at 5, the sun had officially set for 23 minutes and the temperature was at 27, with a stiff breeze.
"It's cold out here," people said, as they scooted by, some stopping long enough to drop a dime, a handful of pennies or a couple of dollar bills into the red Salvation Army kettle.
Some people had real concern for my health. "Oh, you poor, poor thing," one woman, who appeared to be about 45, said.
One young man shuffled by, stopping long enough to say he'd contribute, if he had money. I replied that perhaps next time he might. He didn't think so, shaking his head as if permanently resigned to poverty and the darkness that enveloped him.
Not everybody gives. Some will not look you in the eyes. The sound of the bell annoys them with guilt.
But to those who give, the non-stop clanging is the call of Christmas. Some shoppers give going in and give more when they depart.
Nobody gives much. One teenager apologized for giving his last nickel. I thought of the widow's mite.
The Salvation Army needs the money for sure, but shoppers need the kettles and the bell ringers, judging from their smiles.
So between the toe warmers and those smiles, I had a great time, especially when I tossed in a "Merry Christmas" and got the same response.