Thursday, December 13, 2007

Ring Christmas Bells

I ring the bell as the DNB greets the Mall of America customers that pass us.

"More cheer," I whisper.

"More cheer?" he whispers back. "Okay."

We're bell ringing for the Salvation Army. It's Saturday night, and the Mall to End All Malls is hopping.

"Merry Christmas!" the DNB says to a teenage girl and her companion. She's dressed in a long red gown, with horn-like protrusions sticking out of her head.

"Merry Christmas?" Medieval Goth Cat/Devil Girl replies. "It's not Christmas!"

The DNB and I glance at each other.

"Happy Easter!" she shouts as she enters the mall.

Some people greet us in return, which is nice. Others ignore us and keep walking, as if eye contact might bind them to some sort of charitable giving contract. I used to be one of those people, treating the bell ringers like I do the heavily accented foreign men who run the Dead Sea Lotion kiosks. Excuse me? May I ask you a question? No.

I always noticed the bell ringers, but I never processed who they were. Volunteers, all of them. They stand for two hour shifts in the freezing cold, raising money for an organization which receives more donations from the general public than any other charity in America. The money raised locally is always used locally, unless the donor specifies otherwise.

One girl of about twelve digs in her pockets and empties a handful of change into our red kettle. I'm impressed that she has had no prompting from her mother, who walks with her. She continues walking, feels in her coat pocket again, and returns to stuff in another handful.

"Merry Christmas!" she shouts as she runs off to catch up with her family.

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