26 Dec the best gift
This isn’t the part where I expect you all to pat us on the back and say “well done.” Truth be told, I only signed us up to do this because I was watching all the kids’ Christmas gifts pile up in our closet, and I was desperate for something, some tradition or message or something to balance out the consumption. I thought it would be a nice “teaching moment” and not a bad way to spend Christmas Eve, standing outdoors in 75-degree weather. Why not?
What I didn’t expect is how much I’d learn from the people who gave. I noticed more men giving than women. Kris had a theory based loosely on people’s shoes: If they were wearing comfortable shoes, he said, they stopped to give. Six-inch heels or too-tight loafers? They kept walking. (I’m not sure what that says about society as a whole). I was also shocked to see so many $20 bills stuffed into the kettle. One kid, maybe 12 years old, walked over and gave a $10 bill and his mother frantically tried to stop him, saying “but that’s your Christmas money from Grandma!” And the kid just said “I know” and he stuffed it in the kettle.
So save your praise for that 12-year-old boy. Or for Bill, the elderly Salvation Army captain who took over after our shift ended. He stood there ringing for 6-8 hours almost every day leading up to Christmas. He had his own bell and wore his full uniform in the heat, and while he appreciated the break we gave him, he was eager to get back to it.