By Greg Dobbs, co-founder and executive editor, BoomerCafé.com
Fifty years ago, there was a Broadway play, followed by a Hollywood film, called “Bells Are Ringing.” If you’re a baby boomer, you might even remember it; it was about a lonely woman who works for an answering service, lonely until she falls for the voice of a client who calls in.
Well, my bells are ringing now, and I’m anything but lonely. To the contrary, I just finished a shift ringing bells for The Salvation Army in front of a supermarket not far from my home. And although seeing friends shouldn’t be the motive for that kind of public service, spend a couple of hours in front of your local supermarket and you¹ll see half the people you know. Which is kind of nice.
However, my motive was different. At every natural disaster I ever covered in this country, The Salvation Army was there, not only to help people who¹d just been burned or blown or flooded out of their homes, but to help the first responders who appeared, no matter what the hour or what the day. I¹ve eaten a few of their donuts myself!
But back to the bells. They were still ringing in my head when I finished my shift. And drove home. And went to bed. And they are still ringing now. Which brings me to a list of things you should be aware of, if you ever stand in front of the supermarket yourself to ring a bell and raise money for The Salvation Army.
- When you start your shift, unless you¹re in Hawaii, Arizona, or Florida, dress like a screaming blizzard is heading your way. Even if it¹s not, it¹ll feel that cold in the wintertime air by the time you¹re through.
- Try to mask your shock when you¹re standing there like Frosty the Snowman and some teenager walks by in a t-shirt, shorts, and flip-flops. Remember, their blood runs different than ours.
- Don’t waste time trying to figure out whether to face in or face out. The whole goal here is to engage everyone who’s passing you. So circle like the beacon in a lighthouse. Some donors are more likely to stop and give going in, before they¹re laden with shopping bags. Some are more likely to stop and give going out, when they¹re nice and warm after a shopping spree inside.
- Stare down the kids. Sometimes parents will bring them up without being prompted, to teach them to be charitable. Sometimes the kids will be the first to make the move, so they can stuff a coin or a bill through the slot. Either way, it teaches kids to be generous with their good fortune. The world¹s going to need that.
- Stare down the adults too. Guilt is an amazing thing.
- Some of the people who tell you going in, “I’ll get you going out,” do. But don’t be surprised when others, if they can dodge and weave past you by doing a hard turn after walking out the door, don’t.
- Keep count. Not of the amount of money, but the number of donors. You’ll like what you learn: far more walk up, than walk past.
- Just for entertainment, watch how many cars breeze right past the “Stop” sign in front of the supermarket. If I were a traffic cop, I’d station myself next to a supermarket, issue my quota of citations in the first hour, then go inside and buy a donut and take the rest of the day off.
- Just for protection, have the name handy of a good therapist for carpal-tunnel syndrome treatment after you¹re through. Preferably one who also serves donuts.
- When your shift is over, turn on your iPod, your smartphone, your radio, your stereo, or whatever else you use to listen to music, and play it until you go to bed. If you don¹t, then instead of your favorite song ringing through your head all night, it’ll be the bells.