As I open the car door, the bell's familiar tones begin to beckon me, the hanging red bucket awaiting my visit. A bill is folded in my hand and I approach the bell-ringer. A warm smile spreads over his weary face. I can tell with one glance that life has not been easy.
He smiles as he watches me slip the bill into the bucket and bids me a Merry Christmas. I look him square in the eyes as my throat closes tight and tears spring up from somewhere deep. I smile and thank him, and say 'God bless you.'
And I mean it.
Because even though his life path has most likely been quite different from mine and our opportunities and cultures and families wildly divergent, it matters not one iota. We're still coming from the same place. Along the journey, we've both been wounded, broken and bruised, cast aside and rejected.
Like that dear sweet Man of sorrows, so terribly acquainted with grief.
An unbidden stray tear slips down as I grab my cart. The door swings wide and I head to the huge displays of fresh produce that await my visit. I know that each time I head to the store in the next few weeks, the bell-ringer and I will repeat this brief interchange 'til January when he will head back to his pre-holiday life. And I will always, always get choked up. And he'll never ever dream how much he has gifted this woman's soul.
* you can be a bell ringer, too
* photo from nbcnews.com