bell 4

Once upon a time…..

This is a little out of season, but I suppose it is Christmas in July. It’s one of my favorite stories, and it’s as true as I can tell it.

In 1983, I was a teenager working at a local mall in the Denver metro area, Southglenn; for those of you old and close enough to remember. In any case, my minimum wage duties included a lot of cleaning, so as a result I walked the entire circuit several times a night. The holiday season was upon us, and the parking lots were full, as was every store.  Although we were in the middle of a bitter cold snap (the temperature had been dropping to 20 below for two weeks and had never risen above zero), this didn’t deter the bustling crowds. The place was as packed as I had ever seen. The frozen conditions outside didn’t seem to be keeping the shoppers from being cheerful and courteous. Their good mood served to elevate mine.

As usual for this time of year there was a bell-ringer for the Salvation Army standing by the main entrance to the mall. His efforts at collecting weren’t meeting with much success, and I’m sure this, along with the temperature, served to dampen his resolve.  It’s not that people weren’t in the spirit of giving, it’s just that they wanted to get inside and away from the weather as quickly as possible. As the day progressed he decided to move his operation indoors. I didn’t blame him. There was, however, an unexpected reaction to his new location. The part of the mall where he had relocated was two stories high and wide open, so in essence it was a large chamber; an echo chamber if you get where I’m going with this. The poor fella went from being cold and ignored to center stage and annoying. Frustrated that his new location was even less profitable, he packed up and left.

Later that day, as I was completing yet another lap around the mall, I happened to be upstairs on the balcony over where the man had previously been standing. He was back and all set-up, bucket and Santa outfit, but no bell. He was waving something around, and most people were dropping money as they passed by. I was too far away to clearly see what exactly was going on, so I decided to take a closer look.

When I got downstairs it became obvious that this man came up with an ingenious solution to the predicaments of the day. Across from where he was standing was a toy store. Apparently he had gone in and bought one of those annoying paddle games; the one where there’s a rubber ball attached to an elastic cord. It’s singular function was to bounce it back and forth on itself like a sideways yo-yo.  Well, he definitely changed its purpose, and he vastly improved upon it in my opinion. After removing the ball and cord, he had taken the paddle itself and written on it in black marker “DING DONG.” He was joyously waving this around for all to see, much to the delight of those passing by. I couldn’t stop smiling. The bucket was packed full of money.

Every Christmas when I see those persistent bell ringers, I always think of the one man who seemed to please both the crowd and his purpose. If I ever see the act repeated, I’m going to have a genuine urge to drop in my paycheck. I’ve been convinced since then that without a doubt, silence truly is golden.

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With Love and Compassion, Daniel Andrew Lockwood


One comment

  1. Another wonderful post!!!
    “Silence truly is golden.” A quick tidbit about me: I’m in the counseling-type profession. One of the hallmarks of this profession is becoming VERY comfortable with silence. Silence, in this setting, usually indicates people rejoining themselves – reflecting, processing, seeking insight. In this profession, you’ll see a trend where the loudest individuals are generally less pensive, or less adept at listening. They are also some of the most afraid of facing their own “inner demons.” When you’re silent and listening, this is when they come out, and you’re given a prime opportunity to face them. (This goes for those being counseled AS WELL AS those “doing” the counseling!!! We’re all people, and nobody is perfect after all.)

    Since I stretched the silence of the “ding dong” paddle a bit there, I’ll bring it back to the topic at hand, haha! Another thing that jumped to my mind after reading this was the idea of Surprise. Humans, again, are creatures of habit. We’re all familiar with that saying. Many of us have grown complacent with the idea of the Bell-Ringer. We see them all the time. They’ve become nothing more than a noisy landmark to ignore. The brain has a lovely way of focusing on the negative. (This is because it is an “efficiency organ,” making sure that we’re good “fixers.”) However, this negative bias can also cause a lot of issues for us. For example, we see the bell-ringer, decide that we are accustomed to always seeing him there, decide that the monotonous drone of the bell is hard to habituate to, become angry at the bell, misplace that anger to the bell-ringer himself, and then write off the whole bell-ringing-fundraiser-dealio as total annoying bullcrap. CONCLUSION: We’ve, by far, missed the point.

    This bell-ringer you witnessed was indeed genius! He creatively jarred the populace out of their complacency – shocking them (pleasantly, obviously) – into remembering the whole POINT of the exercise in the first place. You hear/see all the time that it often takes a surprise event to reunite people into remembering their default – their Purpose. You only see people coming together and displaying compassion and forgiveness at FUNERALS. You see a country forgetting their political/socioeconomic/racial divisions after 9/11. Humans have given so much power to their BRAINS instead of their MINDS that they have become nothing short of Super Efficient Computers. They’ve trained themselves away from their “default” setting – and by that, I’m referring to pure “love.”

    Children do not care about politics, socieoeconomic status, or race. They’ll love all their little playmates the same. They’ll get into scuffs, but they’ll get over it easily. They enjoy being with each other, laughing together, helping each other, and being part of a team. Society has not yet trained them out of their natural, spiritual essence. But here I go again on tangents… let me get back to it. We adults have been brainwashed by the machine, haha. We have long-since sharpened our brains and let go of our intuitive minds. We have forgotten much of the unity, connection, and compassion that we “came in with” as children. When we are surprised, we are forced to reframe our focus. Often, then, we REMEMBER those principles, the “point,” that we always knew.

    I remember one day I was multi-tasking by cleaning with the television on. I remember hearing the same commercials over and over and over, and just tuning them out. Then, as I was cleaning, all of a sudden, I heard nothing…. Silence. I looked over towards the television to see if the power had cut off or what happened. It was a commercial – a SILENT commercial. I’m guilty of propaganda, because I watched the entire thing, haha. The point is, even the commercial industry, which NORMALLY focuses on making the volume of the commercials MUCH louder than the program you’re watching, realized that making a commercial completely silent will “shock” the public into paying attention. It halfway worked. I watched the commercial, but I never bought what they were selling. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

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