So, here in Ithaca, we live in an apartment building that fronts a pedestrian-only street known as “The Commons.” The Commons is lined with little shops on both sides, and is graced with classic 70s-modernist landscape architecture down its center. (Is this a good thing? Well, it depends on whether or not you like classic 70s-modernism.)
Now, it is Christmas-time, and being Christmas-time, there is a volunteer representing the Salvation Army ringing a bell, soliciting donations from the many pedestrians passing through the Commons who are no doubt engrossed in their holiday shopping endeavors. The location of the bell-ringer is described in the following sketch:
I’ve had a theory ever since the bell-ringer appeared on the Commons this season (around Thanksgiving, I think). My theory is that his/her placement is all wrong. There needs to be a bell-ringer collecting donations on both sides of the street, rather than only in the middle. You see, everyone walks down the sides (because classic 70s-modernist landscape architecture prevents them from walking down the middle – see sketch above) of the street; therefore they rarely pass the bell-ringer of their own accord. And, you know people: they don’t like to go out of their way for very many things. Pedestrians behave just like water – they take the path of least resistance. People who would ordinarily happily drop a buck in the SA bucket tend not to because they subconsciously are thinking, “Hey, that’s too far out of my way. I’ll just pop by tomorrow instead.”
Anyway, that’s my theory. And I think it holds water because I’ve not seen one person deposit money in this particular donation station (I walk the Commons three or four times a day). But today I noticed something a bit peculiar. Today, there was a bell-ringer operating at the very same location as all the past bell-ringers; but this bell-ringer was equipped with more than your standard-issue ring-a-ding bell. He had a bell that you could actually play a tune on! And he was indeed playing a tune. Now, get this: in the time it takes me to walk past the bell-ringer (about 60 seconds), I saw no less than four different people stop and put money in his pot. I even heard one of them say, “Wow, it’s nice to hear one of you guys actually playing something.”
Just goes to show ya – a little love for what you do goes a long way.