(Editor’s Note: This letter to the editor is reprinted from a December 2015 edition of the Pelican Rapids Press. We publish it here for the 2016 holiday season, as a reminder of the upcoming Salvation Army bellringer campaign, which will include a Pelican Rapids site–at Larry’s Super Market.)
Based on a challenge by the Mayor, I took a couple shifts at the Red kettle at Larry’s.
Showing up, I was expecting to spend a couple hours killing time, chat with a few people and be on my merry way. What actually happened was the experience changed my view of the goodness within people. In this hectic season, it is sometimes hard to see the good that is happening around us. Take a spin at the Red Kettle and you’ll be renewed in your faith about all of us.
Not only could I not believe the volume of people who gave, but who did the giving. Young and old, apparently well off and those apparently not as well off, the whole melting pot that is our town’s ethnic makeup gave.
One particular guy stands out to me. He was older and bought necessities. Bread, milk, eggs. He walked unsteadily, balanced with his bags and had refused carryout. He carefully placed his bags on the softener salt bags and came over to the kettle while taking out his wallet. He said, “We all have to give sometime and today is my day.”
I had some time to look him over as he wasn’t setting any land speed records. Here is what I saw: his coat was threadbare, the elbows well worn. He had a stocking cap on that had a tear in the side. He wasn’t dressed that way because he had blue collar job that was tough on clothing. He was well past retirement age and while presentable, he was not someone who has extra cash to toss around. He appeared frugal by necessity.
What struck me was his wallet. He took it out and it wasn’t just years old, it was decades old. Parts of it were taped together and there was a few receipts sticking out of it. There were none of the usual credit or debit cards in the handy, but unused spots. When he opened his wallet, there was $8 in there. A five and three ones. He didn’t hesitate. He took the $5 and folded it neatly and put it in the bucket. I quietly thanked him and offered to help him with his bags. He said he was ok and told me to have a Merry Christmas as he shuffled out the door. He didn’t know it, but he gave me more than $5 in that moment.
In the future, when I have the choice between a five or a one to give, I know which one I will choose.