Saturday, November 29, 2014

Small gesture, big change

This post is long overdue, but since we have just celebrated Thanksgiving, I wanted to share this story because it really is so important. Even if you do not think you can make an impact, a small gesture can change someone's world.

In the past four and a half months, I have gone through a few setbacks: a head injury/trauma, family drama, the death of my grandmother, followed by the end of my relationship six days after the funeral, a suicidal friend and another friend going through a challenging time. The week of Nov. 10 was a rough one. I worked long hours, made a big mistake and went through hell while trying to secure my replacement phone through LifeProof, to no avail. Suffice it to say, when I left work on Friday, I was not in a good mood. The stress of the past months, and especially the past eight weeks, has been pretty brutal.

Around 4 p.m. on Friday, Nov. 14, I remembered that I had signed up to ring bells for the Salvation Army at Pick ‘n Save in Stoughton. Although I was really exhausted from the past week, there was no chance of me missing my 6-8 p.m. shift. I packed up at the office around 5:30 and made the trek to Stoughton.

Ringing bells was probably the best thing I did. Even though it was the first day of the Dane County Red Kettle Campaign, people were so generous. About two of every three people put something in my kettle. It might have been a few pennies, or a few bills, but most people put something in. And with every donation, I felt myself getting happier. The sadness inside me lightened and a smile spread across my face. It was not a fake smile, the one you put on to show the world, but a real one. The kind of smile that you only get by helping others and a cause much greater than your own.

Me with my Good Samaritan, Mitchell.
Twenty minutes before my two-hour shift ended, my day changed. One of the young cashiers, Mitchell, came out and gave me an individual bottle of milk and a pack of double-stuff Oreos. He thanked me for ringing the bells and went back to work. It seems like such a small gesture, the items probably cost about $3, but it totally changed my day. Tears came to my eyes as I was touched my the simple, selfless gift. After my shift ended, I turned the bells and kettle in and proceeded to tell the store manager about the kind gesture one of his employees made. I also took the time to thank the young man, who is a sophomore at Stoughton High School.

He said growing up, the start of the bell ringing marked the beginning of Christmas, and he just wanted to thank me for ringing. I told him how much his simple gesture meant to me. What really touched me is the simple, yet thoughtful gesture from someone so young. It warms my heart to realize the next generation has kind and thoughtful people. You don’t have to make a big gesture to change someone’s life. Indeed, it is the small things that mean the most. I am not sure if Mitchell realizes the power of his actions, but his gift had the power to change my day and my outlook.

As my shift came to an end, another young store employee tucked a couple bills into my kettle. Although I have been ringing bells for four years now, the kindness, support and generosity that I witnessed that day blew me away. The people of Stoughton - young and old - have huge hearts with a large capacity for love. I cannot wait to return there. Although I walked into the store feeling stressed and overwhelmed, I walked out with a smile and a spring in my step. It is true what they say: when you help others, you help yourself.

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