My Volunteer Journal: Episode 49 – Thoughts of a Salvation Army Bell Ringer

salvation-army“Have fun being the person everyone avoids eye contact with.” – My brother, Austin, upon hearing that I was going to collect donations in front of Macy’s as a Salvation Army Red Kettle Volunteer.

What are those stalwart Salvation Army employees or volunteers thinking as they stand in the cold collecting your donations to feed the hungry during the holidays? Not sure but here’s a cross section of my thoughts on the occasion.

Upon arrival in front of Macy’s –

Three and a half hours is a long time to stand here. Oh cool, a bell with the Salvation Army crest on it. Maybe I can play a song with it.

First hour

Hey this isn’t that bad. Time is flying by. Parents who give their kids money to put in the kettle are smart, but not original. Don’t smirk at me sir like you’re the first father to think of that trick. He’s teaching good morals, so I won’t rain on his smug parade. This isn’t going to be hard at all. The sunset was pretty. This is cool. Can’t play a song though, bell is too imprecise. Almost can do the opening to Jingle Bells. No one would recognize it. Should write spec script for Weeds. Don’t forget to pick up dish soap. Ohhh…more dollar bills. Thank you.

Second hour

It’s getting a bit chilly. People are parting like the Red Sea to get around me. Can’t get “Ring My Bell” by Gloria Gainor out of my head. Old sir, if you drive a custom blue Bentley you can give me change. Wait. I see a pattern – the nicer the suit or car, bigger the shopping bag – less money. Man with no fingers just gave me money and you can’t woman alone in enormous Range Rover. Very Sad. Nice gentleman just came up took a wad of bills from his pocket, stuffed them in the kettle, and said, “I use to do that so I know how it feels.” I like him. Getting a little tired of the sound of the bell.

Third Hour

Am freezing. Bell is grating. Hand is numb. Must move, perhaps a march will work with the whole “Army” theme. Thank you for the dollar dirty woman. Oh. You’re going to the trash to get the recycling. You’re going to need 20 bottles to replace that one dollar you donated. Wow, she did that fast and didn’t leave a mess. Good for you ma’am. I’ve made a lot of money, but I’m going to freeze to death so I will not get to do my smug smirk when they come get the kettle. When the van gets here they will find me frozen stiff, my hand will be mid-bell ring. Would stop ringing bell and hug my body to conserve warmth, but at this point bell ringing has become a compulsion.

Three Hours 20 minutes

Must leave now am frozen. Please come get bucket now. You’re here. Yes! Would jump for joy but legs are shaking. Here is the lovely apron, and Santa hat. Can I keep the bell? No, can’t ask that - would be taking from a charity. Although would look good on my bookshelf. Hand him the bell. Okay fine there. Bye. Thank God, didn’t dress like slutty elf – would have made more money, but surely would have perished in the elements.

So there you have it - the thoughts of one little kettle ringer. Being a kettle volunteer for the Salvation Army is extremely easy after you get through the application process, which takes about 30 min. You will have to submit to a background check though. Don’t let their website scare you off – they aren’t going to try and convert you. The Salvation Army is an unbiased organization, which works with prisoners, drug addicts, the lonely, the sick, the elderly, those who are out of work, or have fallen on hard times. Basically, anyone who needs help is free to seek it at the Salvation Army so cough up your change next time you see the red bucket.