Friday, December 21, 2012

Such as These...Nathan and the Bell Ringers

Okay, so I am going about the mundane things of life during the holiday season.  The swanky grocery store in this small town has those red buckets with bell ringers at both entrances.  We don’t go to the swanky store all the time, just for small things that the more affordable store doesn’t carry.

I admit, I am getting lost in the hustle, trying to hold onto the reason for the season but things are getting a little overwhelming.  To many places to be, a few too many gift exchanges, a blessedly busy hobby and one kid that has been sick long enough that it nags at the heart of this mom and dad.

Here there and everywhere and in a glow of Christmas Spirit, I decide not to pass the bell ringer with just a smile but here, let me dig out my change.  There is a bunch of it weighing down my purse anyway, right?  The kids love putting the change in the bucket and maybe if they observe me giving, they will grow up giving too.  Right?

A few days later and that swanky store is right next to the post office which makes it handy.  Another friendly bell ringer and I think, glowing warmly inside, “I will just try to give something every time we come by, isn’t that a noble goal?”  Yes, noble, and I dig in my purse while surely a mother in some part of the world is watching her cold, hungry kiddo, wishing she had my change.

And another trip or two and the change keeps on coming, handing it out to three happy kids who stuff  it into the red bucket while the bell ringer smiles and says, “Merry Christmas, every bit helps.”  Are they trained to stay cheerful in the face of so many that walk on by?

So, a week ago, on Friday, a friend of my children happens to give a Christmas card to my boys.  In the card is two dollars for Nathan.  We get in the car and ride the two minutes to the swanky store.  I just have to run in and get milk and bread. As we pull in, we pass the bell ringers, two men chatting by the red bucket.  I park, grab my purse and start digging out change…let’s give something each time we go in, you know?

From the back seat, the uncontainable sound of a joyful voice, “I KNOW.  I can give them my two dollars.

Distracted by trying to dig out quarters, nickels and pennies, “Are you SURE you want to do that?  I have change that you can give…”

I can give my two dollars!  They need real money too!  I want to.”

I begin, “Are you…” then something, surely not my own heart, but something, stops me and I fight misty eyes and I tell him that would be wonderful.  For once I understand not to steal his joy and what a beautiful, simple joy it is and I remember words, words about a kingdom for such as these, words about not hindering the children to come to Him.

This boy, who always has a list of Legos that he’s saving up for, this boy who has had this found money for less than five minutes, is giving it away because they need money, too.  And he runs up to the red bucket and stuffs his two dollars in before I can even get there with the other kids and the bell ringers, they thank him.  But I have a problem, watching this giving joy pour out of him and knowing that boy the way I do, and I am nearly crying in front of the HT.  So, I try to explain and I want them to understand because this kid didn’t give money from his momma’s purse, he gave his own two mites that he had only two minutes.

These two bell ringers, men older than me by a bit, with their friendly faces, they see my feelings on my face and they see his pure smile and he’s hopping next to the bucket.  They pause and they try to convey that they know how really cool this moment is…and we say goodbye and we go inside.

Milk and bread and life goes on and I am treasuring these things in my heart.

We head out the door and those bell ringers, they stop us and ask his name.  Nathan can’t answer. His mouth is full of free sugar cookies from the balloon station.  They can’t leave their bucket but they have paused in their ringing and they want to talk to him, to make an impression on him like he has made an impression on them and they say so.

They tell Nathan that he has touched their hearts, giving all of his brand new two dollars, these two men giving their time because they must be the kind of people whose hearts are already touched enough to be spending an afternoon in the air ringing a bell and watching people like me scoot by or explain that they don’t carry cash anymore.

They have it ready, a $5 bill for each of my children and I don’t know how to handle this and I point at the bucket because I am tearing up again and they make it clear that they want these kids to have something for themselves.  Those men give Nathan the money and ask him to hand it out to his brother and sister and he does so, dutifully, unaffected by his sudden increase in wealth and his mouth still full of sugar cookie. They explain that they want Nathan to know that he touched them that day and they are pleased to meet all three of them and I am still not sure about the money but again, something stops me and I think I should not mess with this moment but let it be.

At home I call Nathan to me and I ask him if he understands the consequences of his gift.  I tell him that his sweet heart and his two dollars blessed me.  Then it blessed those men enough that they wanted to give back and I am sure that whatever they wanted to put in the bucket is right there in the bucket.  Their giving blessed Nathan and Robert and Nora and it isn’t even about money but about the heart.

I don’t know what Nathan will do with their gift but I know that my heart grew two sizes that day.
Merry Christmas