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Stories, Poems and Humor
Left Book Ringing The Bells
by Batt, Al
Right Book

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It was a winter day and it was such a day in Minnesota. That means it was cold. I was ringing the bells for the Salvation Army outside a large store in a shopping mall. This is a pleasurable activity for me, raising money for a wonderful organization. It is one of those activities that makes me feel good. Doing something for others is a great way to spend a day.

As I started my bell ringing duties, the temperature was about zero. Then the temperatures went north, so to speak. People walking by my kettle kept me informed as to the current temperature. There is a source of pride among Minnesotans to be out doing things in even the most frigid of days. Two below zero, four below zero. Then the wind began blowing, kicking in the dreaded windchill factor. The windchill factor is a pathetic invention created to make people feel uncomfortable who are too dense to know when they are miserable. It also serves to make those who know when they are not comfortable, feel even more uncomfortable. As I rang the bell, the comfort level became...well, there was no comfort. Oh, I was ready for whatever Old Man Winter would throw at me. I was wearing the ugliest hat I could find. A furry thing made out of Chinese rabbits. It was huge with two floppy earflaps that made me look a bit like Goofy. I didn't just look goofy, I actually looked like Goofy. It kept my head as warm as toast, but it was not an attractive look. But that is the good thing about living in the cold climes. The few folks that survive have learned that you must dare to look like a dork. I was equipped with insulated gloves, long underwear, a couple of pairs of socks and good pair of boots.

People scrambled in and out of the store getting what they needed and then hurrying on their way. Most greeted me or at least grunted in my general direction. Some stopped to give me temperature updates. A few tossed a little money in, but most were hesitant to stop and remove their gloves in order to dig into their purse or pockets for money. People are good, but sometimes it is hard to be really great when you are frozen stiff. Especially when you have a windchill factor breathing down your neck. I began to feel as though I were all alone.

Just when it appeared that I would accomplish little more than becoming frostbitten, a miracle happened. The sun came out. The sun changed the day. It became a beautiful day. It didn't get any warmer-it probably got colder-but what a difference it made in the attitude of people. The bright star energized people. People began to smile. They stopped to talk to me and they filled the Salvation Army kettle to the point of overflowing.

Oh, my joints continued to stiffen in the cold, but whenever I thought that I couldn't take it any longer, someone's smile would let me know that I could. Everyone needs to be smiled at--maybe we need it most when we least deserve it.

The day was rewarding in many ways for me. Mother Theresa said, "Peace begins with a smile." Perhaps giving does also. The experience reaffirmed something that my parents had taught me--a smile is sunny face for all to see and a smile can change a person's life. So the next time you feel cold or all alone, put the sun to work for you. Smile.



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