The Maine Mall at Christmas was one of my favorite things as a child. It was noisy, crowded, decorated within an inch of its life, and in center court there was a great singing display of elves and reindeer with the real Santa holding court.
Part of the cacophonous symphony was the ubiquitous holiday sound of the Salvation Army bells.
And of all the music and decorations, that bell best epitomized the nature of the season: Giving.
I remember placing carefully folded dollar bills into the slots at the top of the red kettles, remember my mother telling me about families who couldn’t afford Christmas, or even the decorative lights that signaled to Santa there were children in the home hoping for presents.
I’m carrying this explanation on to my son, as a way of preserving the magic of Santa, yet having an explanation as to why there are some families he doesn’t visit. Now it’s his turn to place the folded dollars into the kettles.
But we won’t be doing it at the Maine Mall.
We won’t even be making the trip there this year at all. We may not again, period.
Because they seem to have fallen victim to the dark side of the holiday. The profit of the season, the money that comes in from our material declarations of love.
The Salvation Army bells have been silenced. Those manning the red kettles have cardboard cutouts of bells – “ding-ding” written on them. Charity is silently competing against the noise of the consumption machine.
From news reports, it seems the Maine Mall opted to silence the bells because shoppers complained, and the noise upset kids.
Seriously? The shoppers complained? Those poor, poor people – subjected to the reminder that some people don’t have enough while they shell out their cash for electronic doo dads, more toys and novelty coffee mugs.
And to the people who did complain: it is likely your business partners will manifest in the shape of your door knocker with an ominous message of three impending visitors sometime in the near future. And you deserve it.
And the kids? I’ll admit that there is way too much stimulation for sensitive children to handle, but the bell is not the problem. How about the competing music coming from the different stores? The skinny million blinking lights from the over-the-top holiday display at center court? The volume of noise from the shoppers themselves? Oh, and all the ringing cell phones?
Those reasons are cop outs. They’re garbage.The Mall has failed. This year, their message is this: Screw Charity, We Just Want Your Money.