The Red Kettle and the Bell

Today I was out roaming downtown Portland enjoying the holiday busyness, the lights, the smells of pumpkin spice, the eggnog latttes, the people rushing around trying to buy stuff for people they like or perhaps love. Then there were the Salvation Army bell ringers with their red kettles standing in front of Nordstroms, Macys and The Nines, opening the door for all the shoppers, smiling, ringing to a certain rhythm that sounds like a heart beat. I like to sit in front of these places in a corner watching them, the people who contribute, the people who ignore the bells, the people being people. I like to observe behavior. Upon observation I can make choices as to my own behavior.

There was one incident that brought tears to my eyes. A young family, well dressed in coats, hats, gloves and boots that suggest it is holiday time approached the red kettle. The two boys, about ages ten to twelve years old and a little girl, probably five, came up to the bell ringer, took out plastic baggies of change they had put into their coat pockets, looked back at their parents who were lovingly encouraging them to do what they came to do, and little by little put the many coins into the kettle. The bell ringer thanked them over and over admiring the tender scene before him. He told me after they left their contribution, the way they did their giving,  was the sweetest thing he had witnessed in awhile. Between them there was probably $5 if at that. But of course we know that is not the point, the money given, is it?  It seemed to be the purity and sweetness, the gentleness with which the coins were given. Ambassadors of holiday magic and spirit perhaps.

I don’t get to see much of sweetness, innocence, gentleness, or kindness as I am out on the street roaming around connecting with ‘my’ homeless, addicted kids. I don’t get to feel soft and gooey as I encounter many of the washed out, lonely, bitter, angry people that trudge their road of fate on a daily basis. To me this was a gift—this snap shot scenario—there on the busy street, in site of the brightly lit Christmas tree at the Square, there with these gentle young parents demonstrating values, there with the guy with the bell beside the red kettle. My wish for the parents, their kids, their attempt to demonstrate true spirit, is that we all find a way to duplicate this little scene daily no matter if the bells are there or not. Wishes do come true. So—stand by and get ready for something magic to happen in the human heart, finally, finally—especially the hearts that are in such need of tenderness—finally—


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Grace E. Reed

I have a MA in Conflict Resolution, a BA in Drama Therapy am a mediator, published writer (Negotiating Shadows and Needs) a broadcaster for radio on disability awareness. I work with street youth, the homeless, addicted people, and have been a social activist for over 35 years. Occupy WS Portland, Oregon is a passion. Eagles World Studio is up and running. My heart responds to poetry and my head hears it in everything I do. My motto is 'stay curious, be kind and keep moving'. My new book 'Negotiating Shadows: Journey to the Sun' published by George Ronald Publisher, Oxford England and available through my website.

  1. Hi Grace,

    Thanks for sharing such a beautiful and touching scene. May this inspire everyone who takes the time to read and absorb this story of beauty, grace, and generosity. It is often children who demonstrate the true spirit of this Christmas season.

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