Admittedly, the past month has been a tad tough on my psyche. Trying to feel positive has not come easily even for a usually upbeat sort like me.
I was still reeling from failing to win re-election to city council when, a week after the Nov. 19 vote, my favourite cat died.
Combined with other negatives and curves tossed our way the past few months, I was not feeling ‘Christmas.’
The blame train had stalled at Frustration Station and it seemed I was stuck in Pityville.
Thankfully, I had previously volunteered to ring the bells at a Salvation Army Christmas Kettle. My two-hour shift (four days before Christmas) started at 9 a.m. so I did not anticipate many people shopping. That was my first of several lessons.
I gave the magic password at Customer Service for the kettle and gear and within a minute was adorned in Sally Anne official garb; complete with a band of Christmas bells (the best part for sure).
The kettle was hung by the doorway with care.
Six cents arrived in the jar before I had a chance to properly tie my apron.
A lad of about nine, face covered in chocolate candy, quickly deposited the pennies his dad had given him into the slot.
‘Aha, I’m working for pros,’ I thought to myself, recognizing Sally Anne had already learned that ‘little’ people like to give money too and it makes it easier if they can reach the opening.
Five minutes later, the first ‘bill’ appeared. A young man scooted by in his electric wheel chair, braked, backed up, traversed past other shoppers and with his fully functioning arm deposited $5.
Another lesson learned about kettle height. Not only do short people and kids like to give money, but so do those with accessibility challenges.
During the next two hours I met two Wal-Mart ‘greeters’ and enjoyed discussions with a bundle of folks. It was another marvellous opportunity to observe the world in action, to be a fly on the wall, albeit it one with a bell and a big bauble of money.
As time ticked by, I felt the Christmas spirit entering into my existence. As each elderly lady on pension dropped her final few pennies, or emptied her change purse into the bauble, I melted. When fathers, some of them very young, sent their kids over with coins, I was choked up.
It was interesting who gave money (and who did not), the various demographics of my brief visitors. As the lessons continued, so did the Christmas glow grow.
A couple of close friends happened by and chatted briefly. Strangers stopped and discussed the election, this column, or other stuff. It was all wonderful.
My shift was flying by at a rapid pace so it was ironic that the ‘clincher’ contact that morning made her way so very slowly into the department store, with about 30 minutes left.
In a deliberate, calculated, energy-conscious precision, she willed her bent and beleaguered body across the snowy slick crosswalk outside and with the same amount of determined energy and effort (sans the wetness factor), struggled through the two large sliding entrance doors.
By the time she and her smiling assistant slowly shuffled their way to my little spot in the store I was worn out watching. As the greeter found the young woman an electric cart the lass told me, “I need a scooter because I’m in a hurry to spend my money.”
She laughed, “I’m on limited time you know.”
“Aren’t we all,” I retorted with a laugh.
Twenty minutes later she returned, a few goodies stuffed into shopping bags.
After laboriously extracting herself from the cart and gaining her legs (supported by her two canes), she shuffled over to the kettle and deposited a $10 bill. I looked at her in dismay as she said, “That’s to help out someone in need this Christmas. There are lots of folks out there who have a rough time, you know.”
That was the dam breaker. She had already shuffled about 10 feet towards the exit doors by the time the first lump hit my throat followed by the damp eyes.
It was at that very second that every issue I was feeling sorry about was put into perspective. My Christmas was on.
“Merry Christmas,” she yelled, waving goodbye profusely.
“It is now, thanks to you,” I replied.
I ran short of space for Angels submitted for Charlie’s Christmas Angels list last week. Here are the remaining few.
‘Jason’ says his favourite angels are: “The many wonderful workers at the Gospel Mission.”
‘Christopher’ wanted to thank the staff at Crossroads.
Teresa reminded me that I somehow forgot a very special Angel in both our lives, Cindy Patterson.
As well, Angel wings to Theo Pauls, Imre Csorba, Andrew James, Aris Moraitis and Doug Brown. In addition, the spell check monster attacked twice last week. Special thanks to Shawn O’Reilly (not Sean) and Graeme James (not Graham).