Ginnie Graham: Bell ringing not as easy as it looks
BY GINNIE GRAHAM World Staff Writer
Saturday, December 08, 2012
12/08/12 at 3:13 AM
As I waited for The Salvation Army's red kettle to arrive from the area command, I overheard a couple walking into the store.
"The bell ringer is usually out here," a man said.
"Yeah, I guess they're not here yet. I'm glad," said his companion.
"Yeah, they're pretty annoying," he said.
Not exactly the best thing to overhear for getting into the holiday giving spirit.
After donning the red apron and being handed the bell, I was told the only rule is to never ask anyone for money.
Smile, be kind and wish people a good evening.
I can see how that could really annoy someone.
Spreading cheer: The most cheerful are children.
They are naturally curious about the bell, want to give a coin or two or just want to say "Hi."
Sometimes, I'd clang out the rhythm for all of us to sing "Jingle Bells."
My shift outside Woodland Hills Mall was during the University of Oklahoma-Oklahoma State University football game, and it was killing me to miss it.
One man got his smartphone from his car to give me an update on the score.
Another woman joked that her Bedlam house divided led her to go shopping instead.
Several people made eye contact and gave a friendly "Hello," which were small but major gestures.
I can't remember if any of them gave even a penny, but I'm grateful for their interaction
Avoidance: Even during Christmas shopping, Mr. Scrooge and the Grinch come around.
Luckily, no one was outright rude, unlike the experience of some ringers.
Mostly, people steered away like I had the flu, going out of their way not to go past me.
After awhile, I realized guilt must be part of this avoidance.
No ringer makes a judgment when you walk by without dropping a coin.
Musically inclined: In those stretches of time being ignored, boredom would set in sometimes.
I rang out Christmas tunes and eventually moved on to other musical pieces, including my high school song "Dear Ol' Perry High" and the Ramones' "I Wanna Be Sedated."
Eventually, my children joined me, and they loved it.
My 5-year-old daughter danced and sang while my son stuck with joining the chorus of songs.
They deserve all the credit for money collected in the kettle that night.
Happy to help: Volunteering as a bell ringer went better than expected.
Some haven't been as lucky, being criticized by strangers for "begging for money" or saying "holiday" instead of "Christmas," or vice versa.
One volunteer said "God bless you" and got an earful.
On the other end, some volunteers are being given hot chocolate and notes of appreciation.
Most people are nice or at least cordial.
That's why many bell-ringing volunteers return, some giving mini-performances.
It's a small thing to do for an organization, which, like many, is helping the most in need in our community.
At the end of the evening, there was a sense of accomplishment and a smile on my face.
It was worth the experience, and I'll likely make it an after-Thanksgiving tradition.
So, when you see a bell ringer and don't have a spare dime, don't go down a different path.
Just say hello and remember to be kind this giving season.
Original Print Headline: Bell ringing not as easy as it looks