Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

The Joys of a Salvation Army Bell Ringer

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

The Joys of a Salvation Army Bell Ringer

Article excerpt

When I go to the grocery store, I am a woman on a mission: Get in, get stuff, get out. Which means that most of you other humans are simply obstacles in my path.

Funny, but the more frantic I am, the more you dawdle.

So it was very strange to go to a supermarket last week and just stand there, near the front door, for an hour or more at a stretch. Not once, but twice.

And it was fascinating to watch all of you rush in and out, as the minutes slid away toward Christmas Eve, while I rang a little bell next to a red kettle.

Yep - for a weird tangle of reasons, last week I volunteered for the Salvation Army. I've always loved the sight of the red kettles and the sound of the bell. They signal the approach of Christmas, with a merry Victorian feel.

It upsets me that some places have banned the kettles, so I make it a point to thank store managers for hosting them and to be armed with dollar bills - to put my money where my mouth is.

Then last week I spotted an article about the Dallas Cowboys rookie Ezekiel Elliott, who jumped into a huge Army kettle in the end zone to celebrate a touchdown. Donations nationwide had been lagging 16 percent behind last year, but in the 12 hours after Mr. Elliott's leap, giving surged - especially in $21 sums to honor his jersey.

Like the rest of the country, last week the Western Pennsylvania division "was running behind last year - $62,000," said Lt. Kenneth Cleveland, who with his wife, Minnie Cleveland, leads the North Side Worship and Service Center.

So I signed up. I thought I'd feel pretty good about it - ain't I grand, you know? - but I got much more than anticipated.

I tried to observe without intruding, and at first I could see myself in your intense, focused faces. Whoa - we Americans are driven, even when grocery shopping.

But the tinkling bell tends to pierce one's stay-on-task, protective shield. It was fun to watch people register the seasonal sound, slow down and make a mental note to be prepared on the way out.

And they often were. At the McIntyre Square Giant Eagle in Ross, I could see shoppers pausing between checkout and exit doors to rummage for change. …

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