We began the year we got married. It was snowing hard that year. I remember standing outside ringing that bell so hard because the more I moved the warmer I stayed. The manager of the department store at that Shawnee mall told us we could stand just inside the doors and out of the snow. When his shift was over the new manager told us to go back outside with our kettle. We didn’t care….we were starting a new tradition for our family.
The next year we stood outside of Long’s Drug Store in Manoa Valley on the island of Oahu. I rang the bell while Chris played his guitar and sang. We stood in flipflops, shorts and t-shirts…wonderful.
We’ve continued our tradition nearly every year. We have rang with babies in carseats covered in blankets. We’ve rang in sweaters. We’ve rang in 10 layers with chattering teeth. As the boys grow they join Chris in the singing….and typically they do a lot of dancing.
I’ve been thinking a lot about what I want my kids to think of when Christmas is mentioned. When they begin their own families and their own traditions – what do I want to fill their Christmas memories? I’m still pondering all that I want their Christmas legacy to be, but I do know a few things I want to pop into their heads. When they think of Christmas I want them to be excited to celebrate the meaning of Christmas. I want them to know that we give because God gave. We can give not only presents, but our time and talents too.
It was cold. A grandma (I call her that because that is what she called herself) tried to convince me to let her take my kids inside with her. I told her no. She asked, “Why in the world are you doing this? Why as a family? Why do you have your kids out here?” I told her I wanted to teach my kids the meaning of Christmas. She smiled a confused and bewildered smile. Then my oldest handed her a candy cane and she went on her way.
I made several trips inside with the 3 youngest kids to warm up. My oldest came in one time and then he realized his daddy couldn’t give candy canes and play the guitar. He stood out there the rest of the hour with his lips shaking because he wanted to be sure everyone that made a donation got a candy cane. Not once did he say he was cold. Not once did he ask to leave. He pretty much rocked it. I am proud of him.
My 2 year old entertained shoppers with his interprative dancing to Christmas carols. His little sister did a lot of booty shaking too.
The sun set and our hour shift came to an end. Chris turned to me and mentioned how difficult it might be one day to get 4 teenagers to have the same night free to go ring a bell with mom & dad. I kind of think it won’t be all that difficult. I have a hunch that one day Chris won’t be the only one with a guitar and that the toddler booty shaking will be replaced with something my teenagers think up.
Once at home we sat around the kitchen table drinking hot chocolate and talking about what we had just done. The older boys were relying all the money that they saw being put into the bucket and all the smiles of those that donated. Then the boys grinned and said, “That is a lot of people that will get food this Christmas. And a lot people that will get to be warm.” Chris and I glanced at each other….it is so very good when they do actually get it.
Just in case you are wondering…to volunteer to be a bell ringer you just contact your local Salvation Army…that is what we do each year.