Feeling philanthropic in Georgia - Ed Brock

If any of you saw what you took to be a mugger manning the Salvation Army kettle at Southlake Mall this Saturday, don't worry.

It was me.

For the third year in a row I stood guard over a red bucket, oozing Christmas cheer and gathering donations from the masses. And once again, the weather was cold and gray.

Not that that was enough to stop a gaggle of 14-year-old girls from wearing midriff-exposing tops over their jeans as they went shopping with Mom. Indeed, a surprising number of people seemed to be unacquainted with the weather report for that day, or maybe they had just been tipping back some of Santa's antifreeze.

About midway through my two-hour shift I had buttoned up my black overcoat, flipped the collar up to cover the back of my neck and pulled a wool ski cap snugly over my hairy ears.

Combined with sunglasses on a cloudy day, I had a real spooky vibe going on. It was necessary for security reasons.

That was the good news. The bucket was well full, and I thank every one of you who helped fill it. From the old fella who spilled his handful of coins all over the lid without getting one in the hole to the two or three of you who managed to cough up a fiver.

Granted, I also had a young boy try to remove the dollar his big brother had just put it, but hopefully he'll catch on to how it works by next year.

However, I have to be honest. Though I love being part of the effort to help those less fortunate, that's not why I volunteer for duty on the kettle.

Well, not the only reason.

It's also a chance to stand around for two hours and do virtually nothing but watch the crowd. My responsibilities, so plentiful in daily life, were reduced to jiggling my jingle bells and saying "Merry Christmas" to those making contributions.

What bliss, to have nothing to do, even for a short time!

And watching a crowd of random strangers is better than TV, or at least daytime TV.

There was the saucy Spanish girl picking up litter while dressed in a stylish fleece-lined coat. She had the spirit to ask me if I knew who was throwing garbage on the ground, to which I told her I didn't know but I'd be sure to beat them severely if I caught them.

There was the woman who asked me what I was going to do with the money. I told her I would use it to buy bourbon and warm my old bones through the frigid night. She didn't laugh.

And there was no shortage of beautiful women. Marriage doesn't make you blind, you know.

It was cold and gray and I only sat down for 15 minutes of that two hours, but it was a fine time indeed. I'd recommend it to anybody.

Ed Brock covers public safety and municipalities for the News Daily. He can be reached at (770) 478-5753 ext. 254 or at ebrock@news-daily.com .