Recently, I rang the bell at my local mall for the Salvation Army. How was it? It was fantastic. I loved it for so many reasons! Let me explain some of them.

First, I just love doing things that indulge my childhood fantasies of being a pop star. (I made a humorous blog video about this fantasy called “My Big Break, or Maybe Not”.) I would imagine myself on stage, beating on the drums, in front of a sold out audience, as I rang the tiny bell. When no one was around, I would even belt out a few lines of Jingle Bells. I even added some dance moves. I waited until I was alone for practical purposes. Meaning, I am tone deaf and I have no rhythm.

I was enjoying alternating between ringing the bell for people and amusing myself during the brief periods of dead times. Then, I abruptly stop. A thought occurred to me. “Hmmm, I bet the mall has cameras.” From then on, I was strictly business.

The deeper, meaningful reason why I love ringing that bell is because I found it spiritual. God calls us to love and take care of one another. That requires doing something. That requires giving something of ourselves. The money that people give to the Salvation Army helps with feeding people in our city. By ringing the bell, I was inviting people to slow down during this busy season and think of others. People are valuable, whether they have much or a little. I think when we provide meals, it affirms that belief.

I found it spiritual because I could announce “Merry Christmas” to many people and silently pray that God would reveal or remind them about the reason for the celebration on December 25th. Jesus Christ. God in the flesh. God’s demonstration of His Love for us. Proof of God’s desire to connect with us.

I also enjoyed myself because I could make eye contact and smile at strangers. We were created for connection, not only with God but with one another. For me, when I connect with people (and with animals, for that matter), I feel a stronger connection to Jesus. Because of my cerebral palsy, it is often hard for me to connect with people in crowded places like the mall. I feel like people are either staring at me or intentionally avoiding eye contact with me. It was kinda nice to have a way to grab the attention of people and feel acknowledged.

If you think I am just overly sensitive to how most strangers interact with me, I would disagree (although I do own the fact that I am a sensitive person). I have had several people who acquired their disabilities later in life tell me that there is a distinct difference between shopping before and after their disabilities with regard to how people treat them.

Forty-five minutes into my two hour shift, one of my friends came to to team up with me.  This gave me yet another reason to love helping my city. It was wonderful to reconnect with Dena in between the flux of the crowds. Like with many friendships, had allowed the busyness of life to interfere with spending time together. Spending that small time together reminded me how blessed I am to have friends like Dena. Even though we are different in many ways, we just get one another. It doesn’t matter if we don’t see each other very much. She has a disability, and I have a special connection to many of my friends with disabilities. I value my friends without disabilities just as much. However, there is something about the connection between people who share similar struggles that foster closeness. Spending time with my friend had refreshed my soul. Thank you, Dena!

i am so glad I had made the decision to give back to my city. It enhanced my relations with God, people, and myself. Score!

Unmasking Questions:

How do you give back to your city or community? I think it is fine if making a difference is not a person’s thing. However, I would love for you to reconsider. Why? Because I believe you have a lot to offer this world. You have a voice and strengths that are solely yours. The world would be so much more beautiful if you allow them to shine.

Too many people would like to silence others, base on age, gender, race, disability, or any number of other differences. However, I look at Jesus as my example. People tried to silence and put Him in a box, but He refused to give up. I find that encouraging. What about you?

Keep being brave!