A couple of hours of time can hopefully help provide happier holidays for some in Gillespie County and beyond. Fredericksburg Rotarians pitched in to help ring the bell for Salvation Army charity efforts this Christmas season and yours truly took a turn at a busy downtown corner last Saturday.
The red kettle and the bell ringers help this national organization give help in a variety of ways to the needy in our local communities. You know their name best by disaster relief, stepping up to help with large disasters, such as Hurricane Harvey. But 82 cents of every dollar stays in the community where it was collected, so they do plenty of local good, as well.
This Christian-based organization assists with hunger and poverty efforts, they provide shelter to the country’s homeless, they fight human trafficking and work to protect spouses and children from domestic abuse and gang violence. This group also extends a hand for veterans’ assistance, helps our elderly, gives hope to those dealing with addiction, and even steps in to offer help in some places as school arts funding gets cut.
I admit I was unaware how far-reaching this group’s efforts extended until I was researching to write this. I was the guy, who like many I saw on Saturday, cut a wide path around the bell ringers and avoided eye contact. Our holidays are busy, so no one wants to be “bothered” while completing our shopping missions.
But the people who did take the time to give warmed my heart on a chilly morning.
It was brisk, so I dressed out in long johns and several other layers. Still, there were plenty of young men out wearing shorts and one, who must have been from the North Pole, even wore flip flops. (Enjoy that active metabolism while it lasts, guys.)
I was stationed at the corner of Main and Adams from 10 a.m. to noon, just as the visitors began to wind their way around downtown, looking for last-minute Christmas deals.
My first donor was a cowboy headed down to Texas Jacks and we wished each other a Merry Christmas. I thought I would be more self-conscious, feeling like a “charity terrorist” shaking down all those traipsing by on the sidewalk. But the smiles of people, even those who didn’t stop and give, made it a good morning.
Being a drummer, I tried to come up with a rhythm for the mono-tone bell, or worked on 7-stroke and 9-stroke rolls. I found traditional grip does not work nearly as well. (That last graph is for percussionists only.) I also tried to ring out Christmas songs, such as “Jingle Bells,” but imaging singing all the Yule-time music with just one note — it doesn’t work.
The Santa hat I sported has a Dallas Cowboys logo on it, so I got a few thumbs up from people wearing a Cowboys jacket. One guy with a Mississippi State sweatshirt asked if Dallas could return their quarterback (Dak Prescott).
One guy with two of the cutest Irish Setter pups on leashes pitched in. Puppies make everything better. Almost everyone who had their dog on a leash had the pup tricked out in a Christmas sweater. That’s the spirit!
A woman visiting from San Antonio told me she had been a regular donor to Salvation Army until her husband, who was in a wheelchair, became ill. She still pitched in $5.
And lots of parents of small children gave them some change to drop in the kettle — a neat experience for these tots. That simple act ends up being a valuable lesson at this early age about giving and sharing.
Joe Houde spearheaded our local bell ringing efforts and organized volunteers to take turns. Lots of our Fredericksburg Rotary Club members took turns at this effort, as well as spearheaded the Toys for Tots drive, and I am proud to be a third-generation Rotarian.
A couple of hours of being “that bell ringer” helped me see the generosity of so many while reinforcing my own blessings in every way that truly matters — from having food and shelter, to a loving family.
This ding-a-ling wishes all of you a happy new year.