The holidays were coming. Streets and parking lots were filling with cars as people rushed about, laden with bags and packages.
From opening until closing time each day, Marty stood ringing his old bell in front of the big department store. He wore the same old thin coat, mismatched gloves with holes in the fingertips, and huge unmistakable smile. It was hard to gauge how old he was; he somehow seemed timeless.
Marty had done this for so many holiday seasons that people remembered him. He remembered them, too. Marty liked people. People would come by and wave or call to him. He never failed to greet each person, calling them “Friend” and wishing them a happy holiday. Even when some people ignored him, pretending they didn’t see him, Marty would smile. He knew they were busy; they had things on their mind.
Sometimes people would ask him how he could do it day after day, no matter the weather. He always responded the same. He liked being useful, collecting donations for needy people. He could take the cold for the few weeks of the season, because he knew he was helping others. He knew some people had less than he did. He had clothes and food to eat at the shelter. He had enough. He also had time that he could share. It was his gift to others, he said.
As the weeks went by, Marty continued to ring his bell as he paced back and forth on the icy pavement. However, he looked more tired and cold each day. His age was catching up with him; it was becoming obvious. His regular donators, his “friends” as he called them, noticed and showed concern.
One evening, just before Christmas, a van pulled up to where Marty stood. Grinning and waving, he realized it was a group of his “friends”. The people got out of the van, carrying things as they approached him. One person put a hat on him, as another helped him into a warm coat. Someone wrapped a scarf around his neck, as someone else handed him warm gloves.
As Marty stood stunned, they brought a folding chair out of the van. Setting it up near Marty’s donation bucket, they told him to sit, as they eased him into the chair. Finally, someone handed him a cup of hot coffee. As tears rolled down Marty’s face, they told him for all that he gave to others, it was their turn to give to him.
Story: McGuffy Ann Morris