Taking three kids on a Saturday trip to the store make the spare dollars in my purse poof into oblivion.
Don’t get me wrong. I like to shop for my children. It’s easy for me to lip read them when they repeatedly say, “Please, please, pleeeeeeeeeeaasse.” And my ears love to hear the words, “Ah, thanks, Mom.” When free popcorn was handed out at the checkout lane, my wallet got a welcome break.
As we left, a Salvation Army kettle ringer stood outside the store’s exit. I wondered if I had any cash left to give. Upon inspection, I found a few wadded up dollar bills remaining in my purse.
The bell ringer stood shivering from the crisp November wind. Her tight smile and tired eyes while she guarded her red pot struck me as familiar. She reminded me of a remarkable woman I had written about years ago for my hometown newspaper. The lady had run a soup kitchen in the back of a small downtown building in a rural Oklahoma town. She’d asked me to help serve a lunch crowd while I interviewed her because of a shortage of workers.
“The lines are always long,’ she’d also informed me, ‘and the donations are always few.’
As the lady stirred carrots, stewed tomatoes and beef broth into a giant simmering pot, she shared some kitchen secrets.
“The pot’s always best with a little fat in it,” she said. “When there aren’t enough ingredients, add some meat fat to make it taste good.”
She’d pointed at the rings of oil floating in the top of her reddish soup. ‘That’s what you look for. Folks come through here need that fat in their diet to survive the cold.”
That was 16 years ago, long before I became Lipreading Mom or even began to lose my hearing. Back when I rarely had much money for shopping. The only reason I had cash on me that day was for gas money. It was Christmas Eve, and I’d planned to drive several hours to see family after the soup kitchen stint.
I’d waited for the soup kitchen lady to leave the room for a minute before dropping a bill inside her donation basket. I’ll never forget hearing her announce to everyone in the line when she returned, “Look at this! Someone donated. Would you look at this?”
Standing in the cold with the Salvation Army worker ringing her bell, I turned to my two sons and young daughter.
“Here you go,” I said, handing each of them a dollar. “For the nice lady’s pot.”
My confession as a Lipreading Mom is I love to shop for my kids. But I more prefer those times when I have something extra in my purse to give and there is an open pot. With so many people out of work during these tough economic times, the lines waiting for that Salvation Army kettle’s gifts will most definitely be long.
One by one, my kids dropped their folded dollars into the kettle. I felt like shouting to anyone who could hear, ‘Keep adding those dollars! The pot’s always best with a little something in it.’