While his face almost always shows a smile, ringing a bell all day can take its toll. But, this Salvation Army bell ringer isn't complaining.
"All those years I walked by and didn't put anything in," Brock said. "But then I needed their help one time. I figured, what better way to pay it back?"
Brock and several other bell ringers will be manning the red kettles outside area stores from now until Christmas, raising money for The Salvation Army's annual campaign. Donations will help fund the agency's services for the needy in 2008.
You can find Brock in front of Wal-Mart Monday through Saturday from noon to 7 p.m. He said new ringers receive training that includes dealing with the public, dressing for weather conditions and theft. Brock said he's learned a lot from experienced ringers and shares his three years worth of experience with new ones.
"I tell the new guys that some days you can't stop them from giving, and other days it's real slow," he said. His largest single-day collection was around $2,000, but that is unusual, Brock said. "I had one person who rolled a check inside some dollar bills that amounted to $800."
A Salvation Army employee picks up its workers and their red kettles each evening. Brock said the employee unlocks the kettle and they count the day's proceeds together. Last year, a thief stole a kettle being transported from an Omaha store to headquarters, he said. That has never happened to Brock.
Brock has faith in most people and is not bothered when someone doesn't drop cash into his kettle.
"I don't ask people to donate," he said. "Most people know who we are; and, if they are going to donate, they will donate. They don't need me to ask."
Brock's approach is to greet people and thank them for giving when they do. He said some people will apologize for not donating, saying they can't afford to.
"I assure them it is OK they can't give." He also appreciates the pennies as much as the greenbacks.
"A dollar is the same as a penny. Pennies add up. I don't treat anyone differently because of how much they give."
Most people are friendly, or at least politely indifferent to ringers, Brock said. But occasionally he encounters something else.
"I had one person throw some money at my feet one time," he said. "Another said, 'They never did anything for me, why should I give?'"
"If that's how they feel, that's how they feel," Brock said.
He said giving typically increases as Christmas nears. The bells have become one of the familiar sounds of the season.
The Salvation Army's Red Kettle Campaign started in San Francisco in 1891 and has grown into one of most recognizable charitable campaigns in the country. Brock is among 25,000 bell ringers who collected a record $117 million last year, plus an occasional gold tooth or diamond ring.
While he's never had that kind of "ice" in his kettle, Brock has had the weather-related kind on top of it. He said one time he faced an entire week of subzero temperatures. He's more concerned about how it affects people's giving rather than how it affects his body.
"Those kind of days aren't good for us," Brock said. "People are running from their cars to the door. They are not thinking about giving."
He said The Salvation Army provides weather-dressing tips, gloves and hand warmers to its ringers. More frequent indoor breaks are also offered. Occasionally, a store customer offers a warm cup of coffee.
"They pull us in early, if it gets too cold," Brock said.
He also battles the bell, switching hands to give the other a rest. Brock also varies his ring, by shaking his bell to music.
"The first year I did this without the radio, I would hear the bell ringing in my ears all night," Brock said. Since then he wears a Walkman, keeping the level low enough to still engage in conversation, but high enough to keep the bells out of his head when he goes home.
His favorite part of the job is talking to people, Brock said - and watching little children's excitement at giving.
"You can see them pulling on Mom or Dad's pants leg as they approach. They want to give."
So, too, does Al Brock.