The Day the Bell Fell Silent
Charles Lee McCabe
He lived his life the only way that he would have chosen to. He volunteered as much as any one organization would let him. He worked in an office up to retirement, and then was forced out at age 55. He took this time to get to know his community and his neighbors, as well.It was during this time that something happened that changed his perspective of the word "helping."
When he met a young boy from down the block selling candy-bars for charity, something in the man clicked. He thought, "I could do that. I have plenty of free time and I love to help others out." So from the next day on, he was a steady part of his community. He was always collecting for one group or another. And not only did he collect money for them, but he wound up donating most of his earthly possessions, as well. When asked why he did such a thing, he would simply smile and respond, "Well, I don't have any kids (didn't really have time for them.) and all those things were just going to waste anyway. I might as well let someone that is going to get some joy out of them have them." He was never happier then the few times that the evidence of his hard work was seen.
He volunteered for things all year long, but nothing came between him and ringing the bell during the Christmas season. He was always the first one to put out the sign and bucket, and he was always the last one to put them away, as well. He even had a special bell that had his name engraved in it. This came from the community organization, during a celebration that he viewed as a complete waste of money that could have been put to better use. However, he thanked everyone in attendance, and accepted the bell as being a big help when he was out in the cold in the winter evenings doing what he loved.
It soon got to the point where no one even saw him anymore, they just heard the bell. This was fine with him, as he felt that he was not important, only those unfortunate people that he collected for were important. He was always quick with a smile and you never saw him frown. While ringing his bell, he had seen everything that humanity had to offer. This included extreme acts of both kindness and selfishness. The thing that would give him the greatest satisfaction was watching a child give their money freely. He could always tell which children did it because they wanted to, and which ones were doing it because their parents made them. The only thing that made him mad was one evening, he was ringing his bell when a veteran rolled by in his wheel-chair with one leg missing, and a group of teens tried to mess with the vet. He left his post by the bucket long enough to stand behind the vet and give him as much support as he could till the kids eventually left to find easier prey. He then led the vet over by the bucket and got them both cups of hot coffee. He spent the rest of the day listening to that vet tell stories of the war, and his life in general. From the worst event that he had witnessed came one of his most treasured memories.
That was the way the man was. he refused to see something as fully bad. No matter how dark something looked, there was always something good that would come of it. Well, he spent the years like that. Before he knew it, 20 years had passed, and he was having trouble standing his post. The arthritis was slowly creeping in, and he had to opt to sit by his bucket while ringing his bell. He felt bad for this, but refused to stop helping. It was during one of these evenings that he started to feel a sharp pain in his arm. He was sitting in his usual spot ringing his bell, when the pain picked up and he realized what was happening. He was unable to speak to those that passed him, so he rang his bell. Everyone that passed just listened to the bell, and kept on with what they were doing.
No one took notice until the bell fell silent.
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