When you are cold, your sense of time becomes unnervingly acute. My son and I spent two hours ringing bells for The Salvation Army's Red Kettle Campaign on Friday. Temps were in the teens, and the 9-mph wind gusts sent the cold right through us. The wind even knocked over the kettle.
My son took four warm-up breaks in the store, coming back outside with heat packs, candy bars and a Mountain Dew. I offered him some of the heat packs I keep in the car during winter, but he preferred buying his own. I'm sure that had nothing to do with the pretty girl on the checkout lane he kept using.
Most people who scurried by us did not seem have a giving spirit. Perhaps they just wanted to get in out of the cold. Those who did give warmed our spirits. One woman said times have been tough, with her husband out of work since 2008. That did not stop her from emptying her change purse into the bucket. It both pleased me and gave me hope for younger generations when several teenagers stopped to donate. One woman rushed past, and I figured she must not have heard me compliment her stylish plaid pea coat. A few minutes later, she pulled up to the bucket in her SUV, rolled down the window and poured all the change she had into my mittened hands as her little white dog wagged its tail at me from the passenger seat.
My favorite part of bell ringing is when children give. One little boy dropped in a quarter after his two little brothers did.
"You better take good care of that money," he solemnly said.
I assured him that we would.
Another young boy looked over his shoulder at me like I was crazy and asked: "What are you doing, standing out in the cold?"
"Raising money for a good cause," I replied.
And it is a good cause. While I do not like the way The Salvation Army discriminates against gay people, I continue to volunteer as a bell ringer because I remember how that organization stepped up to help when a community I care about suffered a devastating flood. I don't have a lot of disposable income to offer to good causes. My time is my most valuable resource, and I'm happy to use it.
I'll be ringing the bell again next year, but I may first consider my son's request to either ring earlier in the season or at a store that allows bell ringers in out of the cold.
By the end of our shift on Friday, I didn't have to think about ringing the bell. My constant shivering kept the bell jingling.