Author’s disclaimer: The selfishness of the teenager in this story in no way reflects our daughter. (This is fiction, folks…enjoy!)

THE RINGER

By Voni Harris

12-1-11 

Megan forced a smile at the man who put a few quarters into the red bucket outside the toy store. It was a small town. No sense in having word get back to Mom and Dad that she was being sullen.

Her arm was sore from ringing the bell, her hat was not keeping her ears warm, and it was beginning to snow. But she had another hour.

A lady dropped in a couple dollars, and Megan forced another smile.

This was all because she was mad they wouldn’t replace her i-Pod. It wasn’t her fault she lost it! But they were still making her do this stupid bell-ringing thing. By herself. Volunteer, hah!

What was standing out in the snow ringing a bell supposed to teach her, anyway?

Nothing, she decided. It was just pay-back for when they told her no to a new i-Pod, and she screamed at them and ran off to her room and slammed the door. She’d already endured the standard you-should-know-better lecture about responsibility later that night. Wasn’t that enough?

She had the right to be mad, didn’t she? Who were they to tell her she couldn’t be mad? How was she supposed to keep up with Facebook and Twitter without her i-Pod? She was going to lose all her friends! Just because Mom and Dad wouldn’t replace the i-Pod. Of course, she was mad.

Megan realized she was ringing the bell way too hard, and she slowed her arm down.

Suddenly, a little girl came up and dropped in a dime. “Thank you for helping Jesus,” she said with a smile. “We’re going to buy a doll, we’re going to buy a doll,” she sang, dancing into the store as the girl’s mother walked up.

“Thanks,” the girl’s mom said, dropping in a couple of dollar bills. “Last year, we were about to be evicted at Christmastime. The Salvation Army Help Center not only helped us financially, but they helped me get a job. And, of course, they taught us about Jesus.” She laughed. “I better get in there before Shelly climbs the shelf getting to that doll we’re buying for her cousin. Thanks again!”

All that excitement over buying a doll for someone else? Megan couldn’t ignore the pinprick in her heart.

When was the last time you were that excited over anything? that still, small voice in her heart asked.

She couldn’t remember. Couldn’t remember even being excited over something for herself. She thought of her i-Pod left sitting on the school cafeteria table as she went off to chat with friends. Her heart pricked again, and she felt the shame creeping up to warm her face.

Mom walked up. “It’s getting chilly,” she said, and twisted her scarf snugly around her neck. “I thought I’d join you for your last hour of bell-ringing.” Her smile was warm and reminded Megan of Christmas by the fire, reading the Christmas story.

Megan smiled back. A real smile.

Maybe she’d buy her own i-Pod.

BLESSINGS and Merry CHRISTmas,

Voni

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