Love was in the air


With an hour to go, Kristie and I agreed we had to dig deep to bring this thing home.
We had been ringing our bells next to a Salvation Army red kettle outside of WalMart in Piitston Township for five hours Saturday and it was starting to take a toll on our bodies. The weather, thank goodness, was not cold, maybe 41 degrees, but it had been raining all day and although we were under a roof, the dampness seemed to sink into our muscles and joints. We were both hurting.
Then this little girl in a pink snowsuit, hanging onto her Daddy’s hand, turned and shouted to us with all the enthusiasm she could muster, “Merry Christmas!”
It was just what we needed.
Moments later a man came out of the store pushing a cart with two little girls, presumably his daughters, at his side. I’d say they were 8 or 9 years old. He stopped the cart, opened his wallet and handed each child a 20 dollar bill. One at a time they pushed them into the slot atop the kettle.
“Thank you,” we said simultaneously. “That is so generous.”
“Of course,” was all he answered.
Kristie and I equated this generous gift with the previous generous gift of the child who shouted, “Merry Christmas!”
And with the children who came over with a few pennies to donate.
And the woman who walked past, wished us a Merry Christmas and then returned several minutes later with four quarters. She put them in the kettle and said, “There, I fulfilled my promise. I told myself this Christmas I would not pass by a Salvation Army kettle without putting in a dollar. I always make sure I have a dollar ready. But today, I had no cash in my pockets. Fortunately, I rummaged around and found enough change in the car.”
Her walk to her car and back again with those quarters was in pouring rain.
All of this, and so much more, is why Kristie and I were there. We confessed to each other that while collecting money for the Salvation Army on one of the busiest shopping days of the year is certainly worth our time, there is a selfishness to our volunteer effort. It’s the warm feelings we get. It’s a day of loving our fellow human beings and basking in the love they return.
Like the woman who sat on a motorized cart awaiting a car to pick her up. She had a brace on each leg. She called Kristie over and handed her a few dollars for the kettle. “I’m sorry,” she said, “but I can’t drive this thing over there.”
While she waited she talked with us and we marveled at her profound joy. She had every reason to complain, it seemed, to tell us her troubles. Instead, she talked about how wonderful life is. When her ride showed up, and a young man came out to help her to her feet and into the car, she turned and wished us both a “Merry Christmas and a healthy, happy New Year.”
We felt blessed.

Ed Ackerman