I’ll admit it. I battled a cynical attitude for the ringing bell. I would purposefully walk to a door on the far end of a store’s entrance just to avoid the clanking kettle and eager face petitioning my contribution. Internally, I wrestled both annoyance and guilt on seemingly every shopping trip through the holiday season. About three years ago it dawned on me that I would have some explaining to do if I kept the same attitude and avoidance. Nearing age four, my son’s social awareness and inquiries seemed endless.
Anticipating his potential questions on our weekly visit to the super store, I made the conscious decision to approach every bell ringer all season long with a smile and a donation. Almost immediately my son was excitedly asking for money when we pulled into a parking lot where he saw a bell-ringer ahead. Invariably the short exchange between the charity volunteer and my young son brought a smile to all three of us and spurred a follow-up teachable moment as my son pondered how his small offering may help someone in need. I found myself more joyous during the holiday season and throughout the otherwise inconvenient and laborious shopping excursions. It seemed ironic that these once annoying bell-ringers were now opportunities for happy moments for my son and me.
There is something contagious and counterintuitive during Christmas time. It is the fiscal period we require the most financially to cover costs associated with gifts, expensive meals, and a rising heat bill. Yet it is also the season we naturally turn to remember those less fortunate. What compels us to provide the food and presents for the family who otherwise would have little? What draws us to the toy we purchase and place in the fire station’s collection box? For me the answer is clear after seeing my son’s reaction to the bell-ringers. Infused in our DNA is the desire for both grace and giving. Any mother of a misbehaving child can attest to the innate and natural desire for grace. And the same is true for giving.
It took little explanation for my young son to develop an enthusiastic spirit to contribute when passing a bell-ringer. Similarly, he took great pride and delight in selecting a toy not for himself, but for a child whose name was posted on the church angel tree. Teaching my child to give wasn’t like teaching him to like asparagus! Indeed we are hard-wired to offer acts of goodwill and kindness. Our spirits often respond to our virtuous deeds with natural feelings of warmth and pleasure. This holiday season, may we all experience the joy in doing good.