A Public Thank You to the Unsung Heroes of the Holidays
"Do you work here?" he asked me.
"No, I'm volunteering - "
"Then I don't care," he said with a laugh as he brushed past me into the liquor store.
Last night, I had an opportunity to serve with Metro Bus and Royal Tire for their annual Jolly Trolley donation drive. For three hours, we stood in the cold outside Cash Wise East and asked for food and cash donations to benefit the local Salvation Army, Catholic Charities and Promise Neighborhood.
I was prepared for the cold. I was prepared to volunteer some of my evening.
But I wasn't prepared for rude encounters like that one.
I'll admit -- I've been the person who avoids eye contact with Salvation Army bell ringers. I've smiled apologetically at volunteers collecting donations as I left a store with something I probably didn't need. I've politely declined opportunities to give to charity volunteers like the ones I served with last night.
That's why I'm grateful for last night's encounter. It exposed the irony of the holidays and the tendency of my own heart -- to choose selfishness, rudeness, and even animosity over charity, compassion and grace. I had to check my own attitude, and that was convicting. If I really believe the holiday season is about joy and good cheer, then it needs to begin with me.
"Happy Holidays!" I called out as he left the store.
"You too," he replied, carelessly throwing up his one free hand and not bothering to look.
I genuinely do hope he has a happy holiday.
And to the volunteers who serve so humbly and enthusiastically, I say thank you. You really are unsung heroes.