Good cheer warms bell ringers in cold weather

Back in the mid-1980s when I was young, there was a really popular song called “Life in a Northern Town” by the British band Dream Academy.

I loved that song. It was all at once beautiful and haunting, and boy, it really stuck in your noggin after hearing just the first few chords. It began with the lyrics “A Salvation Army band played…”

As I stood on the sidewalk of a local shopping plaza with my friend Leannah the other night jingling bells as a volunteer for the Salvation Army’s Red Kettle Campaign, I could softly hear the song’s opening strains in my mind’s ear.

Okay, so we weren’t exactly a band but we were absolutely making a joyful noise that could technically be claimed music in some circles, I suppose,

Either way, when my day boss came to me with the news that our firm was sponsoring a bell-ringing initiative for the regional chapter of the Salvation Army, I jumped at the chance to volunteer. Literally. I digress.

“Ooh, I always wanted to be a bell ringer!” I said. And ring the bell we did.

For two hours. On a very crisp late afternoon that only got crisper as the sun set into evening.

Hmm.

We didn’t care; we were armed with hand and foot warmers and an overabundance of seasonal spirit. Cold be darned, said we. “Merry Christmas!” we bellowed to everyone who even remotely crossed our path. We had our spunk to keep us warm.

Yet, as we jing-jing-jingled our way through our shift, which began at 4 p.m., we couldn’t help but periodically check the massive clock immediately to our left.

Thinking we must’ve been out there at least an hour at one point, I glanced up to take note that a mere 18 minutes had lapsed.

More hmm. And lots of brrrrrr.

“I don’t think my foot warmers are in properly,” I said to Leannah, who’d already learned the hard way that the best way to optimize her hand warmers was to scrunch her fists down so that her gloves were flapping about in the breeze like windsocks in the middle of a hurricane.

Yikes.

We soon got the idea that movement was our best bet. So there we were, her in her Santa cap and me in my oversized purple faux fur hat, jumping around, shouting holiday greetings and wildly ringing the bells like two elves hopped up on an overload of extra-caffeinated cocoa and triple-the-sugar sugar cookies.

Guess what? Suddenly the cold didn’t matter so much. Especially after one sweet lady told Leannah she made her day with her bright smile and bubbly attitude. She even said Leannah touched her heart.

Not to be overlooked was a teenage boy who nearly got rear-ended maneuvering haphazardly around the parking lot for the sole purpose of stopping off to give us his change. Then there was the older couple walking gingerly from shop to shop who wished us warmth and wellness twice … and then circled back around one last time to give us a donation.

There was also the woman who offered us coffee and a hot sandwich, and the guy salting the sidewalks who offered to buy us a hot chocolate. Experiencing compassion and empathy in such abundance was like having a big ol’ furnace right there in front of us. #awesome

One older gal who, as did we, noticed several near-accidents, chimed to me, “That’s because you’re so pretty they’re taking their eyes off the road.” What a sweetie pie. I wonder if her glasses prescription is current?

On top of all that goodwill came another bonus — we’d been jumping around so often and much that we both hit our daily 10,000 steps exercise goal before 6 p.m. arrived. And heck, by 2 a.m. the next day, I’d thawed almost entirely!

Listen, my purple toe only lasted a day or two, but the memory of spreading Christmas cheer and raising money and awareness for such an awesome cause. Well, that’s a warmth which will never go away.

Bottom line: Doing good sure feels great — even when you’ve lost all sensation in your fingers and toes.

Kimerer is a Tribune Chronicle columnist. Contact her with warm wishes and e-coupons for thermal socks and underwear at www.patriciakimerer.com

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