I took over my shift at eleven o'clock. With one hour to go, I started ringing the bell for the Salvation Army.
The first thing I noticed is a strange feeling, since I don't normally stand in front of a mall and ask passers-by for change. That feeling faded quickly, though, as plenty of east Texans began to come by and drop off their loose coins and dollars.
One donator, Ryan Shattier of San Antonio, donated because he feels it's his religious duty.
"Christ gave," he said, "So I believe as an example, I need to give and give freely."
After fifteen minutes, I realized this was a real job. I was only on the scene for an hour, the actual ringers are out there for eight to ten hours at a time in inclement weather. And besides, the bell was starting to drive me nuts. I did meet a nice woman who donates every year.
"Our Westwood Women's mission has donated 75 blankets," Juanita Dyer said. "And a lot of things to the Salvation Army. They really appreciate it."
Halfway through the shift, I had to be honest. The bell was starting to get to me. Several times, I tried to sell it to people who came by to donate. Another Salvation Army member had an acoustic guitar, so I pulled that out in hopes of drawing a larger crowd.
It worked. More people came by, including Chandler resident Schell Stewart. She said she felt good about giving, because her donation, "Goes to food, clothes, and toys. Whatever they need."
After forty-five minutes, I was in the home stretch when an out-of-stater reminded me of why I was standing there.
"I think this is a good deal," Arkansas resident John Parton said. "There's people right here in this neighborhood, the neighborhood I come from, and other places where children don't have coats, clothing, food, and especially Christmas presents."
After one hour, we shut it down to count the loot. All totaled, I made a total of fifty six dollars and seventy six cents for the Salvation Army. Not bad, I suppose, for an amateur.
But honestly, after a hard week and some rough news events, I couldn't have found a better way to spend an hour.