Tears Of Joy

She really could not easily afford to drop the ten dollar bill into the Salvation Army’s Red Kettle, but then she remembered.
Tears can reflect the entire spectrum of human emotions, pain, happiness, sorrow and uncharacteristically even that of joy, a misunderstood contradiction.  This is a story about an outburst of tearful emotion that occurred in the most unlikely place and unpredictably. An older lady, she grew up during “hard” times as she phrased it even though she was blessed with many of the attributes of a happy family life.  There were other family members present and the family was fortunate to know and enjoy the love of caring parents and this was indeed priceless, but things could have been better.  You have heard the expression that there are things that money cannot buy, well the family had its share of those but because of the lack of money, the family forcibly  learned to live without and that included not having most things children longed for at Christmas.  There was simply not enough money for Santa and the essentials needed by the family such as
food, clothing and  shelter.  While they were thankful for what they had; still it was hard for the little ones in the family to understand when Santa did not bring those things mentioned in the letter to him.  But one Christmas, a child’s plea was heard.
In her childhood community in early December, there was the presence of the Salvation Army.  The uniformed member of the Army was often seen standing at a prominent place, usually a popular business ringing a tiny bell designed to capture the attention of those who passed by.  Alongside was a small red kettle designed to accept donations of those who cared to respond to the well known needs of the less fortunate.  No matter the weather, the bell ringer stood resolutely at his or her station as a symbol that someone cared. 
She pulled up in the parking lot expecting to run in for a quick purchase; she was busy and Christmas was nearing, and she had many things to do to get ready for the season.  As she neared the big box store amid the hustle and bustle of the pedestrian and motor traffic, she heard a sound that captured her attention.  It was the tinkling sound of a tiny bell and she immediately knew what it was.  The sound brought back an overpowering memory and it caused her mind to return to her childhood.
 As a child, she longed for a special doll, one she had reminded Santa about even though she could only dream of such a Christmas present; still hope springs eternal in those who believe.  Her mother had carefully tried to prepare her for another Christmas disappointment, telling her of other important needs.  But she was determined.  Then Mother had a plan to help Santa.
 The Salvation Army had a store in the community and at Christmas the organization provided gifts for those in need.  Back then there were no agencies (safety net) to offer assistance.  It was the last resort to satisfy a child’s fervent wish.  The mother and the little gift entered, expectantly and were greeted by the attendant who briefly discussed their wishes and need.  She handed the little girl a ticket with a number and told her to follow her into the store room now filled with many wrapped packages, each numbered.  With assistance, the little girl found the matching number, was given the package and told not to open it until Christmas.  The waiting and anticipation were almost too much for her to bear.
On Christmas morning, the time came for the unwrapping and when the paper was removed, the numbered gift was a joy that brought tears.  It was the doll of her dreams.  And this was the memory that caused her to return to her car and get the ten dollar bill, the least she could do to help those who made one of her childhood Christmases so memorable.
The lady attending the kettle listened as this story was told and before it was finished, the tears began to flow, and it proved contagious.   Both were crying, standing beside a red kettle in a public place as curious crowds passed by. 
Little did they know the tears were tears of joy.

Bill Lee
PO Box 128
Hamer, SC 29547

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