Christmas in July

My Hour as a Bell Ringer

Saturday, December 11, 2004, I volunteered to be a bell ringer for the Salvation Army at the corner of King and Market Streets, outside of Leesburg Today.  I would like to share my experience with you, as this was my first time as a bell ringer. 

I was the first person scheduled for 10am, so I arrived a little early and waited on the front steps of Leesburg Today.  I could see the Courthouse clocktower and watched as the minutes ticked by and passed 10am.  Around 10:15am, a car pulled around the corner and a Salvation Army coordinator came rushing up with a sign, a bell, the red bucket, and the apron.  She said they were short stands, but one should be arriving in about an hour.  She suggested I ring with one hand and hold the bucket in the other. 

Ok. I was ready! I began ringing that bell and walked back and forth at the corner to attract folks on both the King and Market Streets side traffic.  Donations on foot and car traffic were not happening, but then a car pulled up on Market Street, down came the automatic black window and out floated a dollar bill, with two young children on car seats sweetly chanting, “Merry Christmas”!  I was as happy as they were and thanked them and wished them back. 

The Salvation Army van then pulled up with the official stand and things really started picking up!  Another vehicle stopped at King Street, again automatic window on passenger side came down and another bill floated out.  This was great!

Then the unspeakable happened!  As I was walking back to deposit the bill in the bucket, the bell slipped out of my hand and rolled down the handicap curb and – Oh No! – into the sewer drain! I could see it, but it was definitely out of reach.  I was crushed and panicked. 

I was just getting up when I heard a car horn and a SUV pulled up on Market Street.  The side door opened, but nothing happened.  I was hesitant to approach it, when out popped a little girl with blonde hair and a pink top. She could not have been more than 4 years old and she walked up to me and said, “Merry Christmas”.  She handed me a small container.  It was a brown painted milk carton (school lunch size) with yarn handles and it was stuffed with change! I don’t know who was more excited.  I thanked her, and she watched me start to put all the coins in the bucket and then she hopped in the SUV and was gone. 

I quickly emptied the contents into the bucket, then looked at the empty carton and thought, who could hear the bell anyway?  I used the carton as my bell for the rest of my hour.  I had several more donations from friends and strangers, a car that beeped and gave me the thumbs up, and one barking god who was just excited that I was waving something.

My relief came down the street, laughed hysterically at my plight (as did my husband when I returned home).  I knew I had a bell at home, which I fetched for the next shift. 

I guess it worked out and it was returned to my mailbox later that day.

I don’t know if I’ll owe Capt. Lee of the Salvation Army, for the bell, or the Town of Leesburg for a potential drain clod for bell removal, but I would volunteer again in a minute if they would have me.  I’ll bring an extra bell, just in case.

The kindness of the people, especially the children and their parents who encourage them to understand giving to charity, was such a reward in itself for me. I hope our corner did well the rest of the day.  I have always appreciated and have come to expect the bell ringers to be part of the Christmas Spirit and now I have even more respect for what they do.

And what of the little brown box, emptied of its change?  It sits on my desk at work, to be filled and refilled every year for another bell ringers’ bucket.  I hope it becomes a new family tradition for us and maybe for someone who might read this.

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