December 26, 2013 - 8:41 AM
THOMPSON-OKANAGAN - When people put money into the big plastic collection sphere I was happy. It was the simplest thing. I stood wearing a red Salvation Army apron and shook my bells — and boom — people smiled, I smiled back and money went into the sphere.
I didn't expect I would enjoy this so much.
I've never really volunteered. I've manned a ticket desk at a music festival in exchange for a free pass but I have never freely given of my time the way I did on Dec. 13.
My first step into altruism was to meet with Judy of the Salvation Army outside the B.C. Liquor Store next to Safeway on Main Street. It was about 2 p.m. There was a duffle bag at the base of the very heavy Salvation Army hook-and-sign contraption. This is what the donation ball hung on. Inside the bag were badges and sugary sweets. I handed out a few to a couple of folks who looked like they were having a hard time.
Judy gave me a red apron to wear which I managed to put over my coat and under my gear - my camera strap, my court reporter accreditation badge and my touch-screen pen. I was then handed two leather strips with bells attached. It didn't take me long to start dancing with them. I guess I could get away with it as I was supposed to ring the bells. Hey, no one gave me a guidebook.
The people coming into and out of the liquor store and those walking up and down under the mall's awnings seemed to enjoy my moves which consisted of an improvised cheerleading routine and some 70s disco steps. I couldn't stop from grinning when people would say Merry Christmas and drop quarters, pennies, all their loose change and even $5 or $20 bills into the plastic bucket. They looked genuinely happy to do so and this infected me. I was smiling for, probably, 90 minutes straight. I was also going deaf as I didn't stop ringing my bells.
Being a modern reporter my work didn't stop when I was volunteering. I didn't take anybody's picture, despite my camera, but I did field several phone calls from two reporters. We helped each other complete one another's story about three coyotes that attacked a woman to get at and eat her little dog. I know, not very Christmasy, but I was amazed at how much I was able to get done thanks to modern technology.
The whole volunteer experience didn't leave me a changed person. I'm a not a volunteer type of guy. But I did feel a little extra something with the folks passing by. A connection perhaps? I'm not sure. I'll have to test it again when I volunteer at the Soupateria kitchen on Christmas morning along with my wife and dozens of others.
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