Sounds of joy

Salvation Army bell-ringer Lori Layne relishes her role.
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Bell-ringers are a familiar sight across West Michigan during the holidays. Courtesy Salvation Army

Lori Layne always threw her extra change into the buckets of the Salvation Army bell-ringers each holiday season, so when she saw a call for the organization last year, she jumped at the opportunity.

“They didn’t have enough bell-ringers,” she said, of what has become a common sight around West Michigan during the holiday season. “I have a servant heart, so I said that’s something I can do and an experience I haven’t had, so why not give it a try?

“I really believe in what they’re doing, and they help people so well.”

She signed up for 10 sessions to test the waters. In her time out ringing a bell, she said she was jumping around, singing and dancing, enticing people to throw whatever change they could into the bucket. She said she thinks people enjoyed the entertainment.

It turned out to be a very gratifying experience for Layne, who said she’ll be back out with a bell and a bucket this year.

The one major difference this year? A bigger bell.

“Theirs is so little, it was hard to ring it and it’d hurt my wrist to really ring it,” she said. “It wasn’t enough noise to help me out.”

Layne worked in a ministry during her career, and she said she constantly had the opportunity to share joy with others, even outside of the holiday season. That’s why the transition to bell-ringing, something she simply never thought to do, was easy. While a mask obscured her smile, she said her enthusiasm won out and she hoped her happiness spread to others as they passed by.

But she wants to spread the holiday cheer beyond her bell station.

“It would be nice to raise a small army of people that want to do this with me and we’d be able to raise more money,” Layne said of trying to recruit fellow bell-ringers from another organization she works with, Pilots for Christ. The organization participated last year in the Salvation Army’s Golden Kettle Contest, which goes to the service club that raises the most money. Pilots for Christ came in second, raising $3,288 in 28 hours of ringing.

To ring the bell, Layne had to step outside her comfort zone a little bit. That’s something she’d like to see more of out of people.

“I had fun. It was more fun than the people who just go ‘ding-ding,’ and it almost seems like forced labor,” she said. “I took it an extra step — bloom where you’re planted. It’s like that old hippie song goes, ‘Try everything once, and things you like twice.”

This story can be found in the November/December 2021 issue of Grand Rapids Magazine. To get more stories like this delivered to your mailbox, subscribe here

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