The Bells Toll For Whom


The Bells Toll for Whom

By Guest Author

Dave Hyde

     As he walked out of the grocery store, Matt heard the bell. He reached in his pocket, pulled out a bill, located the kettle with his cane, and put it in the slot. It was the Christmas season, and the bells were everywhere. Maybe not all the time, and maybe not in all the places he remembered from last year, but they were around.

     Later, on the local news, a captain of the Salvation Army noted that they were having a difficult time finding volunteers to do the bell ringing this year, and urged members of the community to volunteer to help. MATT found himself in a quandary. On the one hand, this was a good opportunity to give back. All it required was time. On the other hand, he remembered the blind couple who sat on the street in the downtown area with a sign and a cup. He had an aversion to pan-handlers in general, and, were he honest, blind ones in particular, knowing that he was judged by other blind people's behavior. Certainly people noticed the blind couple more often than they did him working at his job. So, what to do? Should he do the right thing for the community and volunteer? Should he not volunteer because he would be perceived as begging?


e-mail responses to

**1. COMMENT in reference to: THOUGHT PROVOKER 128 The Bells Toll for Who By Guest Author Dave Hyde I think this Thought Provoker is especially important and it is posted at the most giving time of the year.

Often, we see ourselves as carrying the weight of all blind and visually impaired. We can only change what's in our control and offer explanations for those things that we cannot change, if, of course, we have an explanation. Think back to somewhere in our childhood, the old adages of "be yourself "and "you can only control your part in things" and "you can change things by one action at a time". Any good and positive action is a neutralizer to at least one negative thing, or, possibly more!

I believe that good works and community involvement are just as important to the blind and visually impaired as they are to any other citizen in our community. There is a "good work" out there for all of us. We just have to find it

I know that being involved in "good works projects" has given me a great degree of satisfaction. I feel that I've made an effort to pay back some of the kindness that was shown to me during my initial vision loss adjustments. What one has to give may not be measured in a monetary sense, but may simply be taking a shut-in's paper to them or offering to help at a shelter or food bank. Simply, visiting with a shut-in or a nursing home resident is a "good work" and sorely needed year round.

I feel strongly that we should not let the negative actions of a few affect our personal positive actions.

To anyone reading this post, I would say to you, "If you feel the need to do a "good work", then ask around and find a project that suits you. No matter how big or small, the project will help to bring comfort or joy to someone.

Max Hearn ACB-L listserv

**2. Just because Matt sees a blind couple begging on the street, that should not stop him from volunteering in his community. Giving back to the community is important for everyone.

Merisa Musemic NFB NABS

**3. In Isaiah the words this week ring out:
"When will the eyes of the blind be open? When will the ears of the deaf be clear? When will the lame jump with joy? When will the mute sing praises to God?" People can have perfect eyes, ears, speech, and bodies and be blind, deaf, lame, and mute just the same. Volunteering in such a manner is the highest response of a human being towards another. "Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy." This is a cardinal law of Western Christian culture. I say that failure to act because of another man's opinion, even if concerned about another man's opinion means a single thing, is a act of profound selfishness and cowardice. Act as one must act: Justly and in good conscience, or act otherwise and let others take the heat. "Don't make waves. Don't make waves. Don't make waves," is the great undercurrent of sound in our society as we sink slowly beneath the waves of history. As Edmund Burke said so long ago: "The only way evil can survive in the world is for good men to stand aside and do nothing." Givers would not know they are giving to a blind person anyway. Mountains out of molehills. again. Dr.

Scott Bray www.GreaterOnesThanThese.Org

**4. I don't think that Mat should help since I would personally feel like it was like begging and I would wonder what other people thought of me. I have sold crocuses for the Canadian National Institute for the Blind aka CNIB for a few years. I enjoyed it for a few years but then stopped doing it since the money wouldn't really go to help me in my daily life or directly. well those are my thoughts on this topic.

from Mich Verrier from New Liskeard Ontario Canada.

**6. I have a very dear friend who is blind and a member of the Salvation Army. Each year, he takes a month off of his work to sit with his bell to collect or Christmas. I admire him because I couldn't do it. I belong to several organizations and while I will arrange fundraisers and talk about our work anywhere, I will not ever be the one with the tins collecting at games or selling tickets. I think whether blind or not, one needs to know what one's limitations are. That is to say, I have sighted friends who also can not find themselves out with tins or raffle tickets either. It depends a lot on the person. If you do, make very sure that you're proud of what you do. Your genuine caring will show and that, more than anything else will bring in the donations. Yes people will pity; they are the ignorant who know no better. Any job we do,
we must ensure that we do it out of love and dedication and because we believe in it.


**7. My husband rang the bell for the Salvation army for, hmm, I'd say three years. He did it because one, he didn't have a job at the time and this was a way for him to make a little extra money for the family for the Christmas season and two, he wanted to give something back to his community. He found that he got the most donations when he was "the poor blind man". If he squared his shoulders, smiled, was cheerful and greeted passersby, that's what they did, passed by. But if he sagged in his stance, shoulders drooping face looking dejected and had his dog prominently in view, then most customers would stop, greet him and drop something in the kettle. He felt ashamed. He wondered why folks couldn't just give for the cause not to the poor blind man. I regret to say that he looks back on those years with a bit of regret and shame. The thing is he was doing something and paying his taxes, not begging.


**8. Wow, this is funny to me because I've only seen sighted people beg for money. I work in down town Nashville, and I have at least one sighted person ask me for money over a week's time.

But back to the question, since the majority of people know that the bell ringers don't make anything from the donations they collect, I think the situation would be viewed more as blind people being a positive influence on our society as a whole, giving the true appearance that Not only can blind people receive, but we can give as well! So, everyone add in their own voice to the sounds of Christmas!

Grace and Peace to you all,
JB NFB Human Services Workers Mailing List

**9. We are victims of our own making. True, the blind beggar was a reality, and remains so in many parts of the world. But today in America, the cities streets are full of wandering troubadours and beggars of all kinds. If the blind beggar has not totally disappeared from the scene in America, he has at least faded into the mass of street entertainers, pan handlers and homeless. It is we the blind, who still hold ourselves prisoner, bound in the rags of the drooling blind fool sitting on the lonely street corner with his tin cup filled with pencil stubs. Let him go. Place his memory in the pages of our history books, but remove his face from today's life. Are we expecting ourselves to be so influenced by what we believe other people think of us, that we become afraid to step out and live life? Is that Independence? We are free only when we come to the place, deep within our own minds, that we are a worthy human being. When we are able to say, with conviction, "I like myself and I am just as good as any other man or woman walking on this planet", then we are free to do whatever we choose to do. Whether it is to ring a bell on Christmas Day, or serve in the soup kitchen, or accept the kindness extended to us by caring friends. Liking ourselves, respecting who we are, this will under-gird us and carry us through the hard times and the low points in our walk through life. And then the day will dawn when we are able to share who we are with others.

Merry Christmas.
Carl Jarvis

**10. Matt's aversion to panhandlers, and blind panhandlers in particular. I suppose logically that is questionable, since the unemployment rate is so much higher among the blind, it stands to reason that you would see a higher percentage of blind people panhandling than the percentage of the rest of the population as a whole. But still, there is that illogical anger that comes up when I do see it, because I do think, rightly or wrongly, that this is what the public will walk away with, the idea that all or most blind people must be lazy panhandlers. It's kind of hard to educate people in the first place without that kind of thing making it even harder. Now, should Matt volunteer as a bell-ringer for the Salvation Army? If I were him, I probably wouldn't. And I think I wouldn't precisely for the reason he is concerned about. Unfortunately, all the public can see is "blind" and "beggar," and they associate one with the other. For example, once I was handing out literature for a political candidate for the mayor of Hartford, Connecticut, and most people would either take it or not, but on several occasions, people actually gave me money. Another time, I was taking the bus home from work at night carrying my rather dirty coffee mug with me so I could wash it out at home. Well suddenly, I started hearing "chink, chink, chink," and it took me a while to realize people were putting money into it. All it took was the association between a blind man and a cup and I was getting change. I think there might be plenty of other ways for Matt to give back, such as volunteering in a soup kitchen or helping bring Christmas meals to shut-ins, or helping at his church if he belonged to one. But if I were Matt, I would strongly consider not being a bell-ringer not because the Salvation Army isn't a worthy cause, of course it is, but for the concerns he has about giving the public the wrong message.

Mark Tardif

**11. Ringing a bell and manning a collection kettle is, not only a community service, but, it's also a great way to educate the public about blindness. There will probably be questions about the blind man ringing the bell and collecting money. So, Matt could take the opportunity to educate, at the same time as he's volunteering his time to help a worthwhile organization. I believe that "begging" is a totally different thing, and the public can tell the difference.

Cindy Handel Willow Street, PA

**12. I have had many blind persons ringing bells. then collecting money for the cause. I wanted to do it this year, but it didn't work out for me to be able to get it done. I see nothing wrong with it. I have fears of folks trying to take the pot away from me and much more. So I admire those who do well with the volunteering. I would have my dog, and for me this is protection. I know he would have the people for dinner, and then ask them to come back for dessert. So that is fine with me. I hope the folks didn't have problems this year as in the past.

Dar NFB NFBtalk Mailing List



**14. I have volunteered for the Salvation Army many times throughout my life. I know other blind people who actually work for them. It is a very sad day, indeed, when a blind person is perceived as begging while ringing a bell while standing beside a kettle ringing a bell while a sighted person is perceived as ringing the Salvation Army bell to raise money for a worthy cause, don't you think? Whose perception is this anyway--sighted people's or blind people's? Well, I'll keep doing my volunteer work when I feel compelled to do so, those of you who feel compelled to do so keep juding if you must. And, yes I take my dog guide right out there with me, and let the kids pet him too if they want.

Jessie ACB-L listserv

**15. People understand what the ringing bell and the pot mean. The sign says Salvation Army. It's Christmas. I would hope if anyone implies anything about blindness it would be "I should be helping out too." It would be different if he were sitting on the sidewalk with a little cup collecting for himself. In my city as in others, we have people who sit on the sidewalk and beg - both sighted and blind. I would prefer to give to organizations who could provide appropriate services for those people. If anyone thinks or says anything negative, that is in their own "Scroogey" mind. Too bad for them. I would bet they would be in the minority.

Merry Christmas
Deborah Eades

**16. It can be perceived as begging no matter who rings the bell. Matt seems to have some doubts regarding his own self-worth or image. Would it be perceived as begging if Gordon Gunn, Steve Wynn, or Stevie Wonder were ringing the bell? Matt might be a visible reminder of the differences in people, but he would not be begging.


**17. I think the blind man can certainly help the Salvation Army as a bell ringer. The purpose of the activity is well known and understood by the public. I suppose he might get some extra contributions, but they're going to the Salvation Army. If he was really worried about what people were thinking, he could use a collapsible cane or wear a pocket sized sign, "I am not begging.".

Merry Christmas
Robert Jaquiss Blindkid Mailing List

**18. This dilemma is spawned by the outward perception of self, not the inward one. If he were to view this dilemma through the inner eye, the self perception that comes from within, he would have volunteered to ring a bell, and told the world to go suck eggs.

Ann K. Parsons ACB-L listserv

**19. All in all I've done a lot of tin shaking for various animal charities this Christmas. Some people may consider it 'begging' I am sure but I do get a lot of money for charity that way. When I ran a stall with my craft work to raise money for the "Dr Hadwen Trust" (which funds and promotes research that does not involve animal testing) I raised 40 pounds. Last Saturday I was shaking a tin for the Animal Protection Agency and we raised over 250 pounds. There was 114 pounds in my tin alone.

Helene ryles UK

**20. Apparently my views are extreme, but I don't feel comfortable with soliciting money or other benefits if I would be benefited more than the people being solicited, or even if it might have that appearance to someone. So for example I don't take part in FFB fund raising activities. These things would feel to me like I would be inducing people to do something on the basis of guilt or pity when they would not have done it based on the free exercise of their own judgment.

Bill Barns RPlist

**21. Hey Bill and All, I know exactly what you mean about not wanting to play on other people's feelings of guilt. I feel selfish asking my friends to support a cause that will benefit me, and I'm sure many of you can relate to that. I have RP and I know my friends love me and support me, yet I still feel like I might be pressuring them to support "my" cause. I always thought it was part of the culture of Minnesota, where supposedly we all take care of ourselves and don't ask for help.... Well, after our inaugural FFB VisionWalk in September, I have to say that I've modified my thoughts to some degree. We made $150,000 and everyone in a key volunteer role has requested a return engagement. I was struck by the generosity of my family, friends, neighbors and co-workers. We're all asked to give throughout the year to many worthy charities, and usually by people who we feel privileged to know and support. And don't forget, with the aging population, everyone out there, even those of us with RP, are at risk for macular degeneration, which is one of the diseases the FFB is working to cure. I think it takes courage to ask for help, financial or otherwise, and I'm at a point where I'm finally OK with stepping out of my own comfort zone to ask for financial help for the FFB, to help the millions of others whose retinal disease forces them outside their comfort zone on a daily basis.

My two cents,
Julie in MN RPlist

**22. Hi Bill, I can understand your feelings there. One point I would like to make is that tons of people solicit donations for organizations that benefit them personally. If you think about it, pretty much anybody who comes soliciting donations, whether it be for vision research, arthritis, diabetes, cancer, heart, whatever, even girl guides or boy scouts, there tends to be a personal interest involved. It's simply because the people who are involved in those causes tend to be those who have been affected in some way or benefit in some way. So for those of us with RP to fundraise for vision research, we really aren't doing anything different from all the other people who fundraise or lobby for help for their particular cause that is near and dear to them. Of course everyone has their own comfort level when it comes to fundraising and the way it is done. Anyway, getting off my soap box now.

Megan McHugh RPlist

**23. You know it has been more than twenty five years since I ever saw a blind beggar. Yet, I see many unfortunate and homeless people anytime I wish to venture to nearby Flint, Michigan. Many of course are veterans of wars long ago abandoned by the sunshine patriots like Bush W who sends our young to war, proclaims "Defend the troops", and then abandons them when they return home wounded in body or mind...But another issue I guess.... I agree that folks who are blind or VI can and should volunteer, albeit some in our ranks would consider this a sign of some sort of inadequacy or weakness. I agree with something else here, and this is not explicit, but what if a person is blind and unfortunate and homeless for whatever reason? Should we have to have some sort of morality test or philosophical debate or whatever to put a quarter or a dollar or whatever into his or her cup? I don't think that would muster to the word "charity". I don't care, personally if one is down and out because of this or that. I only care that he or she is down or out. 'Thus I am not trapped by the absurd moralists/blindnessisms of these sort of "thought provokers".

Sorry Robert but you lost me on this one. It is a shameful glimpse into the past for the most part and conjures images of want, alienation and foreboding not needed in the common era. Peace with Justice, ...Or at least, very least mercy...

Joe Harcz RPlist

**24. Why not volunteer. I think a lot of people forget to give back to the community. I don't see a problem. The guy is not begging for himself.

Sarah L. Gales RPlist

**25. I say he should go for it if he feels inclined to. I realize the stereotypes, and if it were me I'd feel embarrassed at first, but how could anyone in their right mind think he was collecting money for himself with a Salvation Army bucket? I suppose some people would. If they thought he was a beggar, think of all the money the poor blind man might raise. Too bad folks hold onto stereotypes so long.


**26. Good gosh, what is this world coming to? First, how did Matt know the blind couple had a pan and sign for pan handling purposes? I find this interesting. We are so quick to judge others without giving full consideration those that do not measure up to our expectations. We are all different and have different talents and skills! Come on people. Blindness is not the issue here. Street, homeless people compared to Bill Gates, Warren Buffett is about as far as a spread as you can get in evaluating the success of life. You blind people are so insecure, what a tragedy! It is no wonder why sighted people perceive us so wrongly! It's our own fault because of giving blindness the attention in influencing our decisions in our action and re-actions! Everyone has various levels of motivation, ambition, sense of humor, level of intelligence, social skills, and how our parents brought us up in this world! All of which has nothing, absolutely, nothing to do with being blind!!! So Matt should decide for himself whether he should ring bells or not, without the blind couple influencing his decision!

Sincerely, Very Sincerely, Jack E. Mindrup

**27. Matt appears to have an interesting quandary. does he help the Salvation Army, and those it serves, by ringing the bell to obtain contributions or does he avoid the begging question that many people seem to acquaint with blindness and disability. Personally, I couldn't and wouldn't do it. As far as I'm concerned, it is still begging -- relying on the sympathy of people who walk by. I think that I'd rather perform my community service in other ways. After all, there are many ways to assist others. A person can help by volunteering to serve on advisory bodies, become an advocate, be an educational or career mentor and become involved in consumer or civic groups. Actually, this question brings up an associated issue. Originally, I was going to say that I'd rather give back by putting a contribution into the kettle, but wouldn't that be condoning the process of begging?

Doug Hall, Daytona Beach, Florida

**28. I can understand how a blind person would feel torn under these circumstances. Many of us, especially those old enough to actually remember blind people on the street corners selling pencils, would have the sense of being less than people of dignity if we were seen ringing the Salvation Army bell and manning the kettle during the
I believe, though, that if we look at this activity as a chance tfor we to give to others instead of as a chance to solicit the pity of others we can make a clear-cut choice whether to do it or not. It's a matter of being true to ourselves not of worrying about other people's attitudes as they watch us doing it. Personally, I have never taken charge of a Salvation Army kettle and I probably never will, but the Salvation Army is, in my opinion, a worthy organization, deserving of people's respect. Raising money for them wouldn't exactly be begging.

Chris Coulter O ACB-L listserv

**29. Christmas is a time for giving. Whether he is perceived as being a beggar or a man collecting charity for gifts to give to poor little boys and little girls, should not matter. What should matter is, he wants to do the right thing and be charitable with his time. SO, put away your own prejudice and get out and help raise some pennies, nickels and dimes so some little boy has a model truck to play with and some little girl has a new Barbie that would put a smile on their face, knowing that ST. Nick thought them to be good little boys and little girls instead of naughty boys and girls and wondering what they have done wrong to deserve a Christmas without a gift.

Jonathan Alpert NFB Human Services Mailing List

P.S. I am a MH counselor and I run groups. I asked my clients one day how fortunate they feel. They all felt fortunate despite having mental illnesses and on SSI. I talked to them about boys and girls who aren't so fortunate. Asked if They would like to donate a dollar each to buy some toys for "toys for tot" and each to their own, was willing to hand over a dollar. We were able to buy 4 toy sets, for boys and girls. They had all felt wonderful and one even said to me "I feel as I could cry, knowing that a little boy and a little girl will get a gift."

**30. Reading this Thought Provoker leaves me in a quandary as well. Not only is Matt caught between deciding to help the Salvation Army to give back to the community vs. the public perception of blind people as beggars and pan-handlers, but Matt's pride is involved. He wants so much to help the community, but he doesn't want people donating money out of "pity for the poor blind person". He wants people to donate money to help the community, particularly the poor people of the general public. Sure, being a bell ringer would, more than likely, help the Salvation Army receive more donations, but the question that would remain as a mantra in his mind would be, "Are these people donating because of the Salvation Army name, or are they donating because they feel pity for me as a blind person?" I'm sure that there are other ways he could help the salvation Army by making phone calls to various companies, urging them to make donations to the Salvation Army. I would've suggested going door-to-door, but this leads back to the same issue of pride and public perception, which reminds me of a similar situation I was in over eight years ago. Back in 1989, I had just graduated from high school. I had also been attending our church youth group meetings throughout my high school years. Those who had been attending or were still in high school were invited to go on a mission trip to Mexico to build one-room houses for the poor. However, we had to do some fund-raising activities to generate money to be able to go. One of the fund-raising activities was to collect pizza orders. Naturally, this entailed me walking door-to-door. I did collect a large volume of pizza orders. Whether people ordered out of pity because of my blindness or out of pity for the homeless poor residents in Mexico, I'll never know. I would like to say that most people placed their orders because of the latter instead of the former. However, I would venture to say that most people placed their orders because of the former. People are not going to be honest if they were asked why they placed pizza orders or donated to the Salvation army. They may tell you that they did it because they wanted to help people in need, yet the real reason may be because they felt sorry for the "poor blind person".


**31. As usual, a fascinating question or two lie just beneath the surface, unspoken: Does this man fear that people will mistake him for an independent blind beggar in a Santa costume, rather than as working for the Salvation Army? that's the only thing I can imagine that would make him think twice about this. So I would reassure him: Maybe you don't know it, but there's usually a sign standing by the kettle that lets people know it's the Salvation Army? Okay? Is that better? Or maybe he is intending to filch the money people donate for himself, and feels guilty about this because it makes him *feel* like a blind beggar in a Santa Claus suit?

If not either of the above, then what's the problem? Blind or not, he'd be wearing the Santa cap and standing by a bowl with a Salvation Army collection sign. Why would anyone mistake him for a blind beggar of the kind he doesn't want to seem? He doesn't think people will understand this? Where is the question in this question? As often happens, you have to read between the lines to figure out what the thing is trying to make you think about, because the premise is irrational.

Happy Holidays to all and let us not forget to be thankful that we still have our minds, because as a politician wise beyond his years once said, a mind is a terrible thing to waste. And it should be "the bells toll for *whom,* not "who." Hope that helps.

Joel Deutsch RPlist

**32. Kind of what I remember seeing in my mind a guy holding a cup full of pencil begging for money. But in this case there is sign indicate what they purchase of kettle and money go for. Now the real fun begin whether to really look like a blind person or kind of hide the fact that you are blind. There are other ways how one heart feel about doing this bell ringer. I can feel both side of this story. How you would feel you are begging and how you feel helping the group rise money for good .

Dexter Terry

**33. Hmm this is kinda hard, I would volunteer, and I don't think it looks like begging if the sign for a charity is in front of one's self.

Though forgive me on this: how will a fellow blind person know that another blind person is doing the volunteering and ringing the bell? Unless the other blind person is partially sighted. Besides that it is our life and the view of others should be out of mind in the Holiday season.

Sean Moore

**34. I don't think there's anything to worry about. If Matt wears the Salvation Army uniform, and stashes his cane, then the donors will most likely be thinking "Salvation Army," not "blind beggar." I mean, come on. The cliché usually involves violins and tin cups, not bells and kettles. Besides, at this time of year, there is no shame in either asking or giving, so chill out.

David Lafleche

**35. No I don't think that he is seen as the blind beggar because he is giving back to his community. I think that the public needs some educating on the subject from him. This way the public will hopefully learn that they shouldn't think of him in that way.


**36. My suggestion is to find another way to volunteer!

Lori Stayer Merrick New Yourk

**37. I think we can get so involved with how others see us, that we allow it to dictate how we live our lives. When I was a young mother, I was fanatic about keeping my children clean, well dressed and well behaved. I didn't want others to assume that just because I am totally blind, my children weren't being properly cared for. One day it occurred to me that I was not allowing them to get dirty, express their natural curiosity and enjoying them in this brief time of exploration and adventure of early childhood. Sure, I wanted them to be safe, have good manners and listen to me, but I didn't need to be constantly worrying about whether my mothering skills met anyone else's standards but my own. What I am trying to say here is that we must live our lives to please ourselves, not allow the judgment of perfect strangers to inhibit us or make us do other than what we truly want to do. Sure, some will see us as objects of pity, or the opposite, magically wonderful for just doing what we want to do. We can't change that because it is part of their perceptions and we can't control them, only ourselves and our actions. One pre-Christmas afternoon, I was taking a break on a bench in the mall with my first guide dog tucked under my seat. I had purchased a pretty china cup and was debating how much candy to get at the chocolate shop to fill it as a gift for my mother-in-law. As I sat weighing the cup in my hand, a stranger dropped some loose change in it. I was clean, nicely dressed and have been told that I was quite pretty at twenty-three, but looked about fifteen. What that other shopper saw was a poor blind woman sitting with a cup with her loyal guide dog at her feet. I was actually holding down a job as a social worker, married, a college graduate, buying a home and a pretty independent young woman. Yes, I was embarrassed, wondered what in my posture, dress or demeanor had so mislead the passer-by. But honestly, I don't think I did anything to make him or her think I was a panhandler. It was completely in his or her mind that blind meant helpless and in need. So David my friend, just get on with living and do what your heart dictates and let the world believe what they will. They will do it anyway, regardless of what you do. It doesn't really matter if you are being the best person you can be and contributing to society in the manner that is most fulfilling to you. Life is too short to waste worrying about what anyone else thinks about you. Like Ricky Nelson sings in his Garden Party song, "You can't please everybody, so you might as well please yourself."

DeAnna Quietwater

**38. I understand Matt’s dilemma. As blind people we have come along way over the past sixty-odd years, but there are still a lot of people who think of us as charity cases. I’ve been in Kinko’s a couple times wearing a suit and tie, and yet there’ve been times when a store clerk has attempted to force me to accept the items I sought without paying for them. Another friend of mine had someone pay for her groceries without her permission, and she had to complain to the store manager because the sales clerk refused to ring up her purchases. So it’s a pretty tall order to have to deal with thepossibility that you’re going to be looked on with pity when you do volunteer work, for some people will view you as pathetic no matter how confident, qualified or competent you happen to be. Maybe many blind people, myself included, are very prickly on this subject, but I still believe that if you can put up with the apprehension over whether you’re going to be viewed as an object of pity, you can volunteer to be an SA worker. If not, then you can find some other way to volunteer and help society. I don’t think there are many “should” or “should nots.” We all have our limits — self-imposed or otherwise and it is up to us to accept or change them in our own time and way.

John D. Coveleski, Minneapolis, MN

**39. I believe that if Mat is incline to devote his time to a good cause which this is, he should do so, regardless of how it is perceived. Doing good should always take precedence over what others think. Having said this, I can understand Mat's hesitation, because I have similar feeling about beggars, but quite frankly, no matter what we as blind people do, some will always stereotype us, and will place all blind individuals in like categories. If we the blind are to achieve first class citizenry as we desire, we will have to overcome this stereotyping by participating as any other citizen including volunteering our time for public good. Things eyes of flesh can't see are in the mind. To those with perfect sight: I am not blind!


**40. I don't think there are many who would think of this as begging. The Salvation Army is reputable and does so much good in the world. Lots of people volunteer to ring the bells. I haven't yet. A few years ago my uncle passed away and left the Salvation Army twelve thousand dollars. I loved tucking that check into a pot for someone to later discover. That was FUN!

Love, Susan RPlist

**41. I think those with vision disabilities view soliciting donations in a slightly different light. When you get a guide dog you are told that not to use the dog for the purpose of soliciting. I am sure this applies to soliciting for personal gain, however I know that cravat weights on Jim's mind whenever he does his annual "Forget Me Not" fundraiser for Disabled American Veterans. Atticus does accompany Jim on this endeavor and they do a great job of raising funds. Many in our community come to expect seeing Jim & Atticus posted at the local market on Veterans Day weekend. I know we all joke about the Blind Guy with his mug of pencils, but this is not about that. This is about participating in a recognized fundraiser. Having a blind person ringing the bell for the Salvation Army would probably be a good thing! Once again disproving that stereotype of what one can and cannot do.

Pam RPlist

**42. Volunteering or getting paid to ring bells to bring in donations to the worthy cause. It's everyone's concern to care for the misfortunate. Show them, model for the general public that we too can take our place. So it is a positive thing. Do it, more of us need to do it and other public acts as well.

Pat Mateton

**43. Matt definitely needs to volunteer as a bell-ringer. Blindness should play no part in his decision. There is a difference between begging and fund-raising. As blind people, if we sit around hemming and hawing over what sighted people are going to think or say about us we will never get anything done. He knows he'd be doing a good thing and if his community already thinks of the blind beggars that are around more than Matt doing his job, then they'll notice him working for the salvation army and probably not remember it the next day, whereas they’ll probably continue to lose sleep over the two blind beggars with dirty tangled hair on the street corner. If anything, he needs to be more visible to the public to make them notice competent blind people more.

Mike from Corvallis

**44. We don't get paid here in Elk City, ok. We are all volunteer. I have rang for the last several years.

Becki RPlist

**45. Uncanny for me reading this; before I left for vacation, a friend of mine, who is sighted, called me up to say, "Hey Kat, let's go be bell ringers. It looks like fun and I'd have fun doing it with you." At first I thought she meant one of those handbell chorus things and thought I'd love to learn to play those handbells. When I realized what she was asking I didn't think twice before changing the topic. There was no doubt in my mind that I would never be on the street asking for money for anyone (though in my young and undisciplined days I'd often borrow a light for a cigarette from strangers, as they often did from me. Anyway, after reading over this story, it seems to me there might be time for getting money for good causes; I just don't think it will be me. When I lived in the States, neighborhood volunteers would often ask me to go around collecting for the Heart Fund. I always said "no" without a second thought. Now that I live on the edge of Asia, I'm even more aware of people's perceptions of blind people as beggars. I wonder, without much hope, when the scenario will change for blind people throughout the world. Perhaps it will happen when education is truly universal.

best, kat

**46. I too have grappled with this philosophical question. I have carefully avoided fund raising opportunities that could be construed as "begging". However, in the past few years I have pretty much changed my mind. It would be different if I was out for myself but everyone in the community knows that the Salvation Army, the Red Cross and other community service agencies need money. Everyone also knows that the least expensive way to get it is simply to find volunteers willing to ask for it and collect. If I am self-conscious, I stand my cane in a corner, throw it behind a nearby trash can or find some other way to disassociate myself with it rather than simply not participating. In the case of bell ringing, one of the reasons I stuck my cane in a corner is that 2 hours to stand in one place and hold it seemed cumbersome to me. I don't think anyone had feelings one way or the Other.

Nancy Coffman Lincoln, Nebraska

**47. In my opinion, a blind bell ringer is not going to look like a "pity me, I'm begging" person any more than a sighted one looks like one. There's a difference between someone who is working for a charity and someone begging alone on the street. The idea of being blind or not is irrelevant here. Of course, if the person considering doing the job feels uncomfortable, then this is a totally different consideration. He either needs to work out the anxiety and do what he wants to do, or he should consider giving his time to another charity that raises money in a different way. It's still giving his time to the community.


**48. After reading the initial responses they have helped me clarify my feelings about this thought provoker. 1. I do think that many people who see a blind person raising money for the Salvation Army will see the blind beggar more often than I like. I've done it myself as part of a local Lions club and wasn't comfortable that the reactions were the ones I was comfortable with. In other words, I wasn't sure the public relations negative was counterbalanced by the money raised. 2. Having said this though, I'd go on to say that perhaps a local NFB chapter could all go and ring bells for the Salvation Army. I'm seeing a couple of dozen blind people dressed nicely and raising money. This would perhaps get some positive press and would surely send a message to the public that blind people are helpful in their community just like anybody else. 3. For the time being I'll do my volunteering in ways that avoid negative stereotypes like this one although I look forward to that Chapter project or a future time when a blind person holding a bucket isn't perceived as a beggar.

Mike Bullis Baltimore Maryland

**49. I'd say if he wanted to take donations that he should do so regardless of what anyone thought.

Toni & Lenore

**50. Yesterday at church we had a report on a sub for Santa service project our Youth Groups performed during the holidays. Two of the youths who participated spoke, as well as two of their leaders. One leader said something that I think is very pertinent to this discussion. He said that if we perform service (whatever the service may be) because of the "blessings we receive for it" or because of how it makes "us feel" or because of how it affects the way that other people look at us, we are missing the point of service. He said we should serve simply because there are people who need our service. I read this thought provoker some time ago and thought, "I wouldn't do it," for all of the reasons that everyone else has already listed. But after hearing this youth leaser yesterday, I must say as long as there are people who need service, let me serve.

Janis Stanger

**51. This is Gwynne Widhalm. I'm a sight impaired individual, and in trying to volunteer for different things, I feel that I am put aside due to my lack of sight. I attend the Liberty Center which is a clubhouse for individuals who are mentally ill. The facility is good, but it is definitely not for the visually impaired individual, and even working in the kitchen which is just on a larger scale from my kitchen, I know what to do, but I feel the concern-hesitation from the staff and some of the members. Things are getting better, but this is what I have encountered.

From Northfork, NE

**52. Matt: Go out and ring that bell. I have two friends who do this every Christmas and they don't associate this with begging. Hope you had a merry Christmas.

Padgett Lake City SC

**53. The title of this thought provoker, provoked me to comment. Who does the bell toll for? Does it ring for the community or Matt? Does public perception control his sense of "giving back to the community" or does his pride? I believe Matt's worry has some merit. He knew the public was likely to put more money in the Salvation Army pot if a blind person were the ringer than if the ringer were sighted. He did not want people to give out of sympathy or pity for his blindness. Matt wanted them to give out of a sense of duty towards helping the community.

Matt is too worried about public perception of him being a bell ringer. He ought to forget his pride. Yes, he would be begging. However, not everyone giving money will do so because he is blind. People give for a multitude of reasons. Also depending on how he presents himself to the public, will largely determine whether or not they even notice his blindness. He does have some public perceived ties to the blind couple begging on the street. They both happen to be blind and that is about it.

To give back to the community is a true act of charity. But to give charity, he must forget himself and focus more on what he is doing for the community and why.

John ( Linda's partner) Minnesota