It all started around Thanksgiving and it hasn’t stopped yet. They are everywhere! I don’t know how to deal with them.
Not that I have anything against them, mind you. I realize they have a job to do – and an important one at that. I just wish I felt comfortable with them. I wish I knew what to do to handle this awkward situation better.
Look at them, standing there with their Santa hats on, ringing that bell and wishing everyone a “Merry Christmas.” How can anyone NOT see them? How can anyone not feel pressured to respond somehow? I mean, how can you walk past them? You just can’t – well, I just can’t. It’s impossible. And even if you do, there’s another one at the next street corner, just as happy as the first one.
Sometimes I just want to stay inside and hide and avoid all this stress. But if I did, then what kind of fool would I be? Avoid people, just to feel less awkward? Been there, done that a thousand times. What does that accomplish? Nothing. It just causes the bad feelings you have about yourself to fester in the pit of your stomach.
Go on, get out there. Be with people. That’s what I tell myself over and over and over. I feel like I am a record that’s stuck. I have heard these few notes all my life and they are terribly boring. But the worst part is that they won’t go away. I can’t lift the needle off of the groove. I have to cope with this little snippet of a song, and that’s that.
Okay, by now I hope you realize I am talking about those people with the red kettles and the bells. I won’t lie. I am uncomfortable around them. I guess it’s a good thing that some people feel uncomfortable walking past them and not putting some money in the kettle. That probably helps them get donations, and those donations do a lot of good things like helping feed the hungry. But it’s impossible to put something into every single kettle you pass along the way. If I did that, then I would go broke and they would wind up having to feed me with the money I just donated.
I cope with this by always carrying loose change with me this time of year. There is no way I want to be caught without money when I come face to face with the bell ringers. But even that doesn’t help because I always feel like I am not doing enough.
Maybe there is a name for this affliction, the one where you feel compelled to try and solve every problem in the world; where you take everything to heart and cry for all the suffering people. Or maybe there isn’t a name for it. Maybe it’s called: empathy, caring, having a heart. Either way, it’s all part of our human experience, and it hurts – it should hurt. If it doesn’t, then check yourself for a heart.
So I carry money around and I donate, and I hope that maybe, somehow, my little touch of human kindness can lessen someone’s pain. And that is worth every bit of “pain” I have to suffer when the bell ringers look at me. I wish I could solve everyone’s problems and take away all the pain, but I can’t. I am only one man doing his best.
But sometimes, just sometimes, it does feel good to think that I am at least trying to do good.