The Bright Side: Joe Bushue

It was more than a brisk chill in the air, or the smell of evergreens and fir boughs, or even the brightly lit storefronts, houses and malls. What really made me realize the Christmas season was in full swing was the warming sound of the ringing bells at the Salvation Army’s red kettles. Somehow those little bells cut through the din of traffic to create a seasonal sound as welcoming as a warm fire on a snowy day.

Even when I was little, I always made sure I had some change handy so I could “feed” the kettle whenever I passed one. That’s probably why, when I got older, I readily volunteered to ring the bell myself as a way the Kiwanis Club I was in supported the Salvation Army. As the years went by, I even was chairman of that project. Even though it didn’t make any actual money for the club itself, it was by far my favorite project.

I soon found out that by adding some live Christmas music, we drew more attention and as a result raised more money. What started out as a sax quartet over the years became a full seven-piece brass choir. As chairman, I was responsible for scheduling the members.

Because our club was always a top money raiser, we were given a prime, inside, high-traffic dry spot. On what became our best money-raising day, I scheduled myself in my electric wheelchair on one side, and Father Vic, an Episcopalian priest, on the other, with the kettle and music just past us at the end. Since the shoppers had to walk through us on their way into the store, I had inadvertently created a “gauntlet of giving.” When people passed by they heard the music first, saw me in my wheelchair second, a priest third, and then the kettle. For whatever the reason (guilt, shame or just the overwhelming spirit of the season), the money really flowed. I even got a thank you card from the Salvation Army for our efforts.

All this confirmed that the saying “It’s better to give than receive” not only is true, it also proved to me that by giving — your money, time, etc. — you receive even more. When you think that the few coins you put in the kettle could became part of a possible Christmas dinner for a single mother and her kids, or help pay the power bill for a man’s family who was out of work, the feeling you receive is more rewarding than the amount you gave.

So take a name off a giving tree, help pack some food boxes, donate some warm clothes to a mission. It’s OK to be selfish and receive as much as you can by giving even more — whether in the spirit of The Little Drummer Boy or the largesse of a reformed Ebenezer Scrooge on Christmas Day.

Happy Holidays and Merry Christmas from the Bright Side!

Joe Bushue is a travel agent and lifelong Gresham resident who has been tolerating multiple sclerosis for 30-plus years. His column recounts some of the humorous sides of his disability and his slants on life in general. Reach him by e-mail at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

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