Seventeen years ago . . . .
When Jen and I started at Asbury, the college was still on the quarter system and had been for years. As many of you have likely noticed, during the holiday season, the Salvation Army descends upon malls and shops across the country with companies of bell-ringers. When Asbury was on the quarter system, fall quarter ended the week before Thanksgiving and winter quarter didn’t start until after New Year’s. This made the Asbury student population perfect candidates for the thousands of bell-ringer positions across this great land. Each fall, the Sallies (as they are affectionately called) came to campus and recruited students for teams in various cities — Dallas, TX, York, PA, Baltimore, MD, and Boston, MA to name a few. The fall of my junior year, Jen and I decided to sign up for one of the teams going to the Boston area. We signed up for a smaller Salvation Army center in Sharon, MA. I was excited because my parents are from MA, and I had a number of relatives in the area that I had hopes of visiting on off days. At the time, my paternal grandparents lived in the next town over from Sharon.
I was assigned to stand outside a grocery store in Sharon. I came prepared for Boston in December. I had ski gloves — that provided enough digital flexibility to grasp my assigned brass bell. I had a hat. I had a nice winter coat that had an outer shell to help break the cold winds. And I had long johns and thermal socks for every day of the week. I was prepared.
I was prepared for something other than ringing bells outside in Boston in December. After a few days of relatively mild weather, December in Boston came to reign over me. It took about an hour for my fingers to feel the gloves’ inability to withstand the really cold weather. Thankfully, after about a half day of my quixotic stand against the elements, the kind employees of the grocery store invited me inside to stand in the front lobby. Oh sweet warmth of a grocery store entry! The only catch was that I couldn’t ring the bell inside the store. That was an easy call. After about an hour of ringing that bell, I wanted to plunge one of those sandwich swords into my ears to make the ringing stop! This would avoid all that carnage. And the guy managing our team of ringers wouldn’t care if I was still able to raise money sans bell.
Another funny thing about ringing bells in Sharon, MA is that Sharon is well-known in the Boston area as a predominantly Jewish town. So I received a lot of disclaimers from the Sallies not to expect great donations. I can testify that the warning I received was complete bunk. I raised a lot of money over the course of my weeks in Sharon. In my experience, the Sharonites are a very generous lot. And I was able to strike up a lot of conversations with the employees of that store who saw me come from Kentucky and stand in the frigid air outside their store and then saw me stand in the lobby day after day to raise money for a great organization.
A funny story from our time in Boston that winter: We went out to lunch one Sunday afternoon with another Boston-area team of Asbury bell-ringers. We were ordering our drinks when one from our party ordered sweet tea. The waitress looked at her like she was on crack and responded, “We only have that during the summer.” Priceless.