Me? I cry. It's a Pavlov's dog sort of response, and rather embarrassing really. And this is every time I hear the bells. EVERY time. If I'm lucky, I'll just get a lump in my throat; more often than not, tears will sting my eyelids. But if I'm not careful, sometimes they'll escape, along with a couple of shaky sobs before I can regain my composure.
Why the dramatics? Am I that in love with the Salvation Army? Or with that tell-tale sign of the holiday season? No... It's because I remember. For the other 10 months of the year, it doesn't phase me quite so much. I get so immersed in my own goings on, so focused on accomplishing the task at hand or keeping straight the To-Do list that I can forget. But in that faint tinkling sound, I hear their cries. The starving child whose mother doesn't know where the next meal is coming from. The young woman on a dingy cot in yet another shelter. The countless souls on the streets with nowhere to live and no means to make a living. The kids in the group home that will get nothing for Christmas if not for the kindness of strangers. For 10 months it's quiet in my world. Sure there are the occasional television commercials or ads in a magazine, but a click of the remote and a flip of the page and there's silence once again. Then November rolls around, and the inescapable bells are back...
And I realize, the needs never left. They're still there, hungry and homeless and broken in spirit, just like they have been January-October... And with barely getting my own ends to see each other (much less meet), I feel so helpless. My heart breaks at the sound of the bells, at the thought of the people those bells represent. Then it breaks even more because I can't make the bells stop. Not out of my pocket. Not all by myself.
But there are so many ways to give. I want to find somewhere to volunteer, even year round. Maybe a local food bank or soup kitchen to help out with on Thanksgiving. Maybe I'll even ring a bell myself by Christmas! Ok, so that link doesn't do any good for my area, but it's neat that such a site even exists! And I really would like to ring a bell... Even though I'd just stand there and cry the whole time.
I know I can't do it all. But I can't let what I can't do keep me from doing what I can.
So if you're in a Tri-County area Walmart through Christmastime and hear someone squalling in the parking lot, chances are it's nothing to worry about... Just me folding up a couple of dollar bills, praying Jesus does His loaves and fishes thing with them. I just want to make the bells stop. Hopefully, you'll join me and figure out in what ways you can make a difference too. Because even when it doesn't feel like it, even when we never see the end result, even when it's only two months out of the year, every little bit does make a difference.
"And the King will say, 'I tell you the truth,
when you did it to one of the least of these...
you were doing it to me!'"