Since mid-November, shoppers everywhere have found themselves greeted by bells when entering malls, supermarkets, and other stores. No, it’s not because we’re being summoned home for dinner by a mother from the 1950s, but because Salvation Army volunteers are soliciting donations for those in need.
And it’s not even annoying. The volunteers aren’t yelling — in fact, they rarely talk — they’re not shouting obscenities, their red wardrobe is perfectly befitting for the holiday season, and their little bells aren’t that noisy, either. If anything, it’s a welcome tradition this time of year.
Salvation Army volunteers have set up shop in front of local businesses for years during the holiday season. Naturally, the hope is that they’ll catch people, who, engulfed with Christmas spirit, are will willing to lend some spare change to the poor. And I’m sure they collect tons of money throughout the country and make good use of it.
However, today, as I was walking into a Fairway Market — which are awesome, by the way, if you’ve never been — I found myself crossing paths with such a volunteer. And what happened can only be defined as “crossing paths,” because it wasn’t anything else. If anything, it was the lowest form of human interaction imaginable.
As I neared them, I didn’t even glance at them. I didn’t smile. I didn’t nod my head. In fact, I couldn’t even tell you if it was a man or woman. And that’s because I pretended they didn’t exist. For all I know, it could have been a giant penguin ringing a bell, and I’d be none the wiser. Which would mean I missed out on the awesome opportunity to see a giant penguin ringing a bell.
And then it occurred to me — I’ve been doing this the entire holiday season.
Probably at least four or five times I’ve had the opportunity to donate to the Salvation Army this year, and not only have I failed to do so, but I haven’t even given these volunteers the courtesy of human acknowledgement.
These volunteers, who aren’t poor, aren’t rude, and who spend their valuable free time standing outside in the freezing cold just to help others and contribute to the betterment of mankind.
And while they may be the cold ones standing outside for hours at a time, in reality, I’m the one who’s even colder — emotionally.
It made me wonder why I’m such a stingy, dispirited penny-pincher. At the very least, couldn’t I look them in the eye and smile? Such a gesture would be a simple, yet effective way to appreciate what they’re doing.
And then it occurred to me — New York City beggars.
Any one who has spent even an hour of their life in Manhattan will know instantly what I mean. Because the city is littered with a homeless population, which — unlike the Salvation Army volunteers — are rude, loud, obnoxious, smelly and abhorrent to look at.
It’s an unwritten code of conduct among city dwellers to completely disregard these people. And I know it sounds bad — just giving them a meager $5 can greatly improve their life. But, we all know, they aren’t going to spend it on food. They aren’t going to invest it in some Internet startup in an attempt to accumulate wealth. They’re going to the nearest bodega and buying a 24-oz. can of Budweiser. In the end, you’re out five bucks, and you just became an enabler for a homeless man’s slow, painful demise.
But at the end of the day, those homeless degenerates on 5th Avenue and the Salvation Army volunteers in front of K-Mart are essentially doing the same thing — requesting your money.
That similarity obviously triggers something in my mind that makes me ignore them both altogether. Subconsciously, my brain blends them together.
And that’s wrong.
I’m just glad I realized it in time. And from now until Christmas, I am not only going to lend these do-gooders a curt nod of appreciation, but I am going to donate money. I’ve spent money on so much worthless shit in my life, that this is the least I can do. I’m a working man who has some cash to spare, I believe wholeheartedly in philanthropy, and it’s time to put my money where my mouth is.
That’s right, people, if I can do it, you can too.
Unless I only have a $20 on me. Then, uhh… maybe next time.