You run into them at every store entrance and every store exit; on every sidewalk and every street corner. It just wouldn’t be Christmas without those cast iron sentinels, would it? No.
You can probably conjure their image in your sleep. After all, you’ve seen them a million times. Fire engine red and pot-bellied, hanging heavy and pendulous, a chipped slot in the shiny lid. A little of the mystery and magic you felt as a kid may cling to them still.
And don’t forget the handbells. They ring in your ears for hours after. Weeks, even. Ding, Ding! Those bells are modern-day town criers. When you hear them, you know the holidays are coming. They’re saying ‘get ready, folks, Santa is on his way.’ It can’t help but send a trill of excitement along your spine.
So what’s the problem? Guilt, my friends.
You see, if you put a dollar in every kettle you pass, you’ll go broke in a flash. And if you don’t? Well, you’ll spend the entire season mired in guilt and remorse. It’s a quandary, I tell you, and you can’t avoid it.
I mean, you go to the grocery store and tuck a dollar bill into the coin slot on your way in, right? The bell-ringer, grateful for your generosity, smiles and wishes you happy holidays. Your heart is warmed.
You exit the store and, uh-oh, a new bell-ringer, one who is unaware of the generosity of your earlier donation. Ergo s/he is not grateful and gives you the fish eye. You slink to your car, retracting your head into your coat all the way.
This same scene is repeated at the drug store, the dry cleaner, the mall, the bookstore, toy stores, restaurants, everywhere you go between now and Christmas Day. When you make a donation, you should at least get a button for your coat — or a sticker, a badge, a secret password — something that identifies you as a kind, giving person.
It should allow for frequency, too. You know, show the twenty or hundreds of times you’ve already donated to the fat, red, shiny kettles throughout the long holiday season. There’s no need to make a big deal out of it or anything, just so I’ll stop feeling like such a weasel.
Okay, there, I feel better now. Happy holidays.
© publikworks. 2011