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My Daughter and the Salvation Army Bell Ringer and What They Taught Me About Christmas

Updated on December 23, 2014
Sallie Mullinger profile image

Sallie is a retired mother and grandmother who has written short stories for most of her life. Her stories are from her heart to yours.

It never occurred to me that Shannon would understand what the bell ringer's bucket was for. How wrong I was.

I have a 42 year old daughter who was born with Down Syndrome. But thats where the "labeling" of Shannon should end. A lesson learned.

And so this happened today.

I took Shannon out to do her Christmas shopping.

Shannon saves her money every year to buy every, single person in our family, a gift. Its usually not much, because there are over a dozen of us including kids. But its important to her to be part of the gift giving and its her money which she earns by helping around the house and she looks forward to this trip every year.

We began at Hobby Lobby, then stopped and had lunch at Frisch's and then we went to (cue the Christmas Vacation music when the grandparents ring the doorbell) Wal Mart (thud). for the record....Wal Mart has the power to make me a Grinch at Christmas.

We were walking up to the door and she noticed the Salvation Army bell ringer and instead of heading toward the front door, she turned and walked over to the bell ringer. I stood there, fighting back tears, because I knew exactly what she was going to do. She fumbled around in her purse, pulled out her wallet and began pulling out coins to drop in the bucket. One by one, quarters, dimes, nickels and pennies made their way into the red bucket until she had no change left in her change purse.

The bell ringer stopped ringing his bell. He and I looked at each other and both of us had tears in our eyes. OK..well..HE had tears in his eyes..by this point, mine were all over my face. He reached over and patted her on her hand and said "thank you". He said it several times. She smiled and said "youre welcome". I had to turn away because by then I really was making a fool of myself and had no tissues.

I dont know if I can put into words what I was thinking and probably what the bell ringer was also thinking at Shannon's gesture. Im guessing it would have something to do with the famous John Bradford quote: "there but for the grace of God, go I"

Shannon doesnt realize that shes anything other than the happy person she is. But I do and so did that bell ringer. And today, I felt like I was in the presence of something great and through Shannon, I was witness to the equality in all of us.

Shannon sees herself as "normal". So putting money in the Salvation Army bucket seemed perfectly normal. And she was right and I got a reality check when I realized it. I learned something beautiful from what many people would consider my "retarded" daughter.

The moment passed and we went into Wal Mart so that Mom could become a Grinch again.

I dont know how she knows about the Salvation Army bucket and putting money into it. I asked Mike tonight if she was ever with him when he had done it and he said not that he could remember. I dont ever remember her being with me either. She watches a lot of television, so thats probably where she got the idea.

It really doesnt matter how she knows about it. What matters is that today, a bell ringer and myself witnessed the truest and simplest and most beautiful meaning of Christmas.

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    • Sallie Mullinger profile image
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      Sallie Mullinger 2 years ago from Ohio

      You are welcome and thank you for your kind comment.

    • RTalloni profile image

      RTalloni 2 years ago from the short journey

      There is a reason it is often called the giving season. Thanks for sharing this lesson we need to remember year round.

    • profile image

      Joan Fryman 2 years ago

      Great story!!! Shannon has learned from being around a family who sets good examples for her to follow. She simply follows those examples. And exactly who has the right to decide what "normal" means when describing another person? What does normal really mean when we describe or judge others. Is anyone really "normal"? We are all equal, different and unique in our own special way. Shannon is one of the "very special" ones who spreads happiness wherever she goes and to whomever she meets.

    • Sallie Mullinger profile image
      Author

      Sallie Mullinger 3 years ago from Ohio

      Thanks Tom..and Merry Christmas and a very Happy New Year to you and Justin.

    • justom profile image

      justom 3 years ago from 41042

      What a great story and proof no one should ever underestimate anyone else. I'm guessing a lot of what Shannon does is a direct reflection on what a good family she has. I hope all of you had a nice Christmas and have a great New Year! Peace~