I rang the Salvation Army bell last night. It became clear quickly that news of the recession’s end has not reached everyone. None entered the retail world with a jaunt in their step, and many literally limped or walked gingerly as only those in pain do. For the first twenty minutes of my shift, I tried strategically moving the bucket closer to the door; variations on the ring from a steady “tink, tink” to a jazzy version of Here Comes Santa Clause, and a pitiful rendition of Jingle Bells. The bucket remained empty. No one gave more than a guilty sideways glance. I started to feel depressed too, and let my ring falter to a half-hearted tinkle.
Then something said, “why not just use the bell to lift their spirits free of charge?” I started bellowing out, “Merry Christmas” to every single man, woman and child coming and going. I smiled and nodded, like I meant it. It took people aback. Some people even smiled and said it back, or “thank you” or “you too.” Change started to rattle in the kettle. Dollars even started coming in.
A woman walked up with her wallet open digging around in its emptiness and said, “I have one dollar in here. I heard that if you give, it will come back to you.” It was tucked away behind an old photo of her daughter. A man wearing a World War II Veteran hat sat down on the bench near by. He comes out at night just to walk around. His house is all decorated, just like his wife used to do it, until she died seven years ago. Christmas just ain’t what it used to be for him, but he’s helping out with the Christmas pageant at church all the same. By the last minutes of the shift, an elderly lady waiting for a ride joined me in singing “you better watch out you better not cry, you better not pout…..” off key, and people actually laughed on their way into the store.
Few in this little town have escaped the economic downturn. All the more reason to say it out loud: “Merry Christmas!” Words translate to thoughts. It’s scientifically proven that thoughts have a physical structure and nature. According to South African brain and learning specialist and author of “Who Switched off My Brain”, for every thought, there is a corresponding electrochemical reaction taking place in the brain. The chemical released and what it does to the brain depends on the associated emotion e.g. sad, happy, angry, etc.
People have been saying “Merry Christmas” at least since 1565 and it’s been a common greeting card slogan since 1843; the same year Charles Dickens “A Christmas Carol” came out. Just say it out loud – “Merry Christmas.” It feels good. It’s not meant to offend other religions, or even the irreligious. It reflects a message of love, joy and well wishes. It’s a bridge between you and a stranger, or those you love.
More on Caroline Leaf at www.drleaf.net
Technical and creative writer, Carla G. Harper follows current events with one eye on history and one eye on the future. Her goal is to encourage people to think critically about what’s going on, both around them and in their lives. Follow Carla at Twitter: CarlaGHarper