Want to ensure getting into heaven? Want to feel really good and Christmasy and make people like you just for being you?
Well, do what I did: call and sign up to be a bell-ringer for the Salvation Army up at Market Basket for a two-hour slot between now and Christmas. It was really fun and folks can be so appreciative as they go by, even if they don’t throw in. That’s because they see you as representing Christmas or even the whole holiday spirit. Especially the kids. There are so many little kids in Gloucester these days — tots and toddlers, each one in a fuzzy cute bear hat, each with wide eyes at the ringing bell. It probably helped that I was singing "Jingle Bells" too. Many of the older ones joined in.
The angels who run the program are Lenny Linquata and Annette at the Gloucester House and they are still seeking ringers. (Reach either at the Gloucester House, 978-283-1812, to volunteer). Market Basket is where just about everybody shops sooner or later and you get quite a cross section of our city going in and out. At holiday time, going shopping is strangely quite festive. People equate all that food with holidays past and future. You, as the tip of the spear, feel every bit of it.
Plus, you also get to study the behavior of every kind of driver, walker, shopper that goes by your kettle, going in and out of the lot and the store. Speaking of the store, it has just plain left the other markets in the dust. The other players haven’t changed a thing, price or promo, in the decade since DeMoulas upended the local grocery store biz.
The place is almost always packed. Therefore, it is a very natural magnet for the bell ringer' benefactors.
Statisically speaking, the big surprise is that — of the givers — men were nearly two-to-one donors over women.
Most of the men who gave got me on the way in, whereas more of the women givers donated on the way out. That made sense because you could see the guys reaching into a pants pocket as they saw me, whereas by the time they came out, the women had had a chance to open their wallets and prepare. Sometimes the kids had the contribution in their hot little sweaty hands, sometimes it was in her outer coat pocket; either way the women were prepared to get me on the way out.
One realizes what a ballet it is to make that parking and walking operation work. Ins and outs, crossing masses of full carts on the way out, expectant shoppers on the way in, cars turning to get into the majority of the lot, folks leaving or trying to. It’s like a huge clock, the gears of which tick away the day, reinventing itself hour after hour as the people and cars flow through. Sometimes it clogs — mostly people work it out, ant to ant. It’s a river to a lake, back to another river.
So give them a thought, both as a bell ringer and a donor when going in the store.
Being a bell ringer is great for your moral resume and will definitely get you into heaven, Lenny guarantees it. I’m doing a slot in November and again, closer to Christmas in mid-December. Gives me time to better remember all the words to "Jingle Bells." So should you, you’ll always remember the experience. It’s an easy way to do a good deed and you’ll be helping to raise money for the less fortunate. Plus, you can one-up your annoying cousin at holiday dinners.
Hoorah for Market Basket and the Gloucester House. Hoorah for the Christmas season. Now get ringing, people!
Gloucester resident Gordon Baird is an actor and musician, co-founder of Musician magazine and producer of “The Chicken Shack” community access TV show.