“Silver bells, silver bells,
It’s Christmas time in the city…”

Nice melody, pleasing orchestration, cheery lyrics. This song is one of the “olde favorites” we hear every year in December. Of course, it’s not really that old…er…uh…well it is as old as I am, which explains why I remember hearing it all my life.

“Silver Bells” is a classic Christmas song, composed by Jay Livingston and Ray Evans.

“Silver Bells” was introduced by Bob Hope and Marilyn Maxwell in a motion picture called The Lemon Drop Kid in 1951. The first recorded version was by Bing Crosby and Carol Richards in 1952, which also became a hit in late 1952. The lyrics are unusual for a Christmas song in that they describe the holiday in the city, and not a rural setting. —from Wikipedia

And those Silver Bells? Those bells ringing in the song were inspired by the imagery of Salvation Army bell-ringers standing outside department stores during the holiday season.

Fifty-seven years later the Salvation Army bell-ringers are still there outside our stores. And to my eye they look like a forlorn lot. They are ravaged by the cold, the damp, and boredom. They look discouraged as the people going in and out of the stores mostly ignore them. For most shoppers, is seems that they are invisible, or a nuisance to be avoided.

I’ve chosen to bring a little bit of cheer and a bit of job satisfaction into the lives of as many bell-ringers as I can. I realized that I could drop a $20 bill into one pot, brightening the day of one bell-ringer, but then I’d be just like everyone else, ignoring the bell-ringers for the rest of the season. So, instead, I went and got twenty $1 bills and stuck them in my jacket pocket. Now every time I run across a bell-ringer, I pull a $1 bill out of my pocket and drop it into their red pot. And when I run out of ones, I’ll go to the bank and swap out another twenty for more $1 bills. And when that is gone, I’ll do it again.

With recession in full swing, charitable giving seems to be one of the ways everyone is cutting back…just when more and more Americans are being laid off from their jobs and in need of some extra support.

By the time Christmas Eve arrives I will have donated about the same amount of money, but every time I drop a bill into one of those red pots I get, in return, a big smile, a thank you, and a happy holiday wish from a silver bell-ringer who got a little satisfaction from their job.

Steve Lange
Senior Editor
Palo Alto Software