Ringing the bell and running like hell
Published 12/12/2013 12:00 AM
Updated 12/09/2013 01:06 PM
For years, during our Thanksgiving get-togethers, 16 of us have been exchanging names for gifts. Two members of the bunch are kids, so their names don't get thrown into the hat. They get gifts from everyone; we're all named Santa.
There was a time when we used to buy a little something for everyone, but we decided a few years back that one non-essential/essential gift made more sense than a Stop & Shop bag full of stuff worthy of what a $5 bill can buy at the last minute.
This year we switched things up again. Because we are all at a station in life where, if we want it, we can afford to go out and buy it for ourselves, we decided to not buy for each other, but for someone else. We're donating.
Hold on, we're not a bunch of goody-two-shoe-do-gooders, we're a group of adults who have decided that the little we spend on each other might mean a lot more to someone less fortunate.
Some of us are donating to big charities, the in-your-face ones that hit you up every time you go to the grocery or department store. Some of us have picked families to help and some of us are practicing random acts of kindness. Deciding where our donations are going has been a blast.
As we went around the room on Thanksgiving Day, and talked about what we were thankful for, and how we were going to spread our good fortune, I thought of my grandfather, (my dad's dad), a man who passed away three days after my first birthday. He was legend in our family.
During the Great Depression my grandfather was the only person with a job on the street where he lived in Roselle Park, New Jersey. Every day he'd take the bus into New York City because he worked at Twentieth Century Fox. I don't know what his job was but for the entire depression my Pop had a job, fed his family and most of the street.
He'd fill a cardboard box with groceries, place it on the front porch of a neighbor in need, rap on the door or ring the bell and run like hell. No one knew who was leaving the food. Because he was the only employed breadwinner I'm sure they figured it out but not one time did anyone speak of the guardian angel feeding the families on Walnut Street. My grandmother said he'd race home out of breath and excited. He loved helping and loved that no one knew it was him.
When I think of my grandfather, a World War I doughboy about the age my own children are now, I am so in awe of his selflessness and am so proud of my heritage. My father said his dad never spoke of the years he fed the families, never sought thanks, never expected or would have accepted a pat on the back for what came natural to him - to share.
As I bob and weave my way through my own workday in a place collecting for a huge and awesomely wonderful charity I am astounded by the public's generosity. The few folks who turn their noses up and lecture me about all the ringing bells and red buckets just don't get it. I feel sorry for them, not because they might need the same services someday they snub their noses at now, but because they are denying themselves the wonderful feeling of filling the box, ringing the bell and running like hell. Enough said.