A Bell Ringing on Brady Street

When the sun is scarce and the air too cold to breathe, I do my best to ignore the dryness in my eyes and on the tips of my fingers. I listen to more music and try to remember to take vitamin D. I take walks to avoid the dreaded seasonal depression that comes along with living through the long winters of the Midwest. When I heard my husband tell our dog it was warmer out the other morning, I packed my heels, put on cross trainers and headed out the door to work.

I heard the bell ringing as I crossed the intersection on Brady Street, a few blocks away from Danceworks, and saw a man put some change in the red bucket. The Salvation Army lady said, “Happy New Year, sir, and God bless you”. Then the coast was clear for me to slip something in through the slot. “God Bless you and Happy New Year, ma’am,” the lady smiled, making eye contact. I’m not big on being called ma’am but the blessing is great.

At the end of that work day, on my walk home, I noticed the same lady still ringing the bell. It registered that she had been standing there in the cold all day but it was dark and I walked on by pretending not to see her. By the time I got to the intersection, I stopped, turned back for a quick look at her ringing the bell, then crossed the street for the Starbucks on the corner. I ordered a hot chocolate and headed back.

I hoped she’d gone inside the drugstore to warm up when I didn’t see her, but she had already left. The bucket was gone. I’d missed my chance.

I still remember her eyes, made-up with blue eye shadow. I wondered how we both might have felt if I had just stopped to say hi.

I walked on, carrying the cup, not feeling so great, and noticed someone picking up a coin on the sidewalk. “Excuse me,” I said, “I just picked up this hot chocolate for the Salvation Army lady but by the time I got it to her she had left.” The words were caught in my throat but he didn’t seem to notice. “Would you like it?”

“You don’t want that?” the man with low hanging pants asked me.

“No.”

“Sure, I’ll take it!” He smiled big and reached for the cup with bare, cold, chapped fingers.

As I walked away a song played on the radio through my headphones—God Will Find a Way.

Today on my way to work, Antonio was ringing the bell. I noticed his name written on his jacket.

“Hey Antonio, you must be cold. Would you like a hot chocolate?”

“Yes, ma’am.”

A second chance, I thought. It’s what the season is all about.

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