As I exited King Soopers the other day I overheard a disparaging complaint about the Salvation Army bell-ringer that was standing there. You know, folks, there is no need to be rude to people. If you don’t want to give anything, then just walk on by and keep your ignorant trap shut. It is a hard job these folks do and I should know. I earned Christmas money for a few years in a row by ringing bell for the Salvation Army . In fact, there was a time when we would have gone hungry if it had not been for the generosity of this charitable organization. People as diverse as Sheryl Crow, Destiny’s Child and Toby Keith have supported them in the past.
When I was a bell-ringer, I would stand out on the cold cement for 8 hours a day, cheerfully wishing people “Merry Christmas” as they went into the business and saying, “Thank you and God bless you” as they left. There are a few common errors that people make about the Red Kettle fund drive, common misconceptions that I would like to clarify for you.
First of all, all money collected stays within the local community , in our case, El Paso County, Colorado. There is no money that is collected by the kettles that goes anywhere else.
All of the money is used to buy food and toys for the poor people of that community. Many people thought that the workers were paid from the kettle money, but that is not true. The kettle workers are paid from the Salvation Army’s administrative funds, leaving every cent, every penny you teach your little child to put in the kettle, goes to the poor. So you are not supporting their cause or subsidizing the propagation of their doctrine, but you are directly helping the poor in the community and them only. I don’t know of any other group that does that.
It was always the most heartwarming thing to see a little person, who could barely even reach the kettle, are handed a coin or a bill and toddle over and put it in. One of the things they also do not do is make people dress up in Santa Claus outfits. They do have a photo ID pinned to their clothes that has the name and phone number of their supervisor on it.
Now, what I did is dress pretty much the same way I always do. I wear a black western duster that Margaret gave me for Christmas one year, black cowboy boots and my black cowboy hat. The only difference at Christmas time is that, attached onto the crown of the hat, I wear a Santa hat, instead. Guys would walk by and drop money in and say, “Cowboy up, Santa.” My favorites were always the little kids, though. They are shy and sometimes I would (I’m not supposed to do this, so, shhh) unhook the kettle and get down to where the little person was let them reach it. They are so proud to put that money in and they are learning a valuable lesson at the same time, they are learning how to give.
Sometimes, when they would put their money in and I would say, “Thank you, God bless you and Merry Christmas” they would ask me, “Are you Santa Claus?” I would laugh and get down on their level and whisper conspiratorially, “No, I’m not, but I might be one of his helpers, you never know. I’ve heard you never know who might be Santa’s helper.” Then I would smile and wink at them.
Oh, stop! I’ll write another day about Santa and what I think about his place in our Christmas celebrations some other day. I’m sure I’ll shock and offend most everybody. Ah, a worthy pursuit, to make everyone angry at the holiday season. Maybe I won’t surprise anyone, I don’t know.
Anyway, the people that work as bell-ringers for the Salvation Army are either unpaid volunteers or low-paid employees and as with any other group you will, of course, have your slackers and milk-men as well as your hardworking individuals that really care about what they do. There is one guy in town that sings Christmas carols and cheerfully greets everyone with a Merry Christmas. I have had a few “Scrooges” in my time that will even curse you out for wishing them well, but they are few and far between. Most people I met while doing the job, especially in Colorado Springs, were generous and pleasant. I think Colorado Springs is one of the most generous and giving towns on the map, if not THE most. I am proud to live here and think that we have the most giving and caring town in the world.
Nowadays I never pass by a kettle without putting something in and as I said, when the kids were little we always gave them money and held them over it, so they could put the money in themselves. Perhaps you have never needed help from an organization like this, I really hope you haven’t, but if you have ever been helped, then you know the feeling of appreciation that you have. One problem I ran into was that so many people use debit cards at the register. I couldn’t say it then, but I will tell you now, you can usually get a little cash back from most stores. Get some cash back and ask for change if you must, but put a little in the bucket.
You know, in this day and age of scammers and bums that hold up signs “”Nam Vet, Please Help” you can still teach your children to be compassionate on the poor, while explaining to them why you don’t stop and give that bum any money. You are really helping out the poor and needy in the community where you live!
Another worthwhile point about this program is that they help anyone, not just Christians. They help anyone who is in need. Obviously they are interested in teaching you about their beliefs, but you do not have to sit through a sermon or church service beforehand.
I am going to put a red kettle link here on my blog to start a group Kettle drive, then I will e-mail every one of you I have an address for and ask you to either contribute to it on-line and/or host a kettle as part of my group. I am going to call the group, “Herb’s Friends” but will put the main link here since this blog has the most treaffic. Please consider doing something, but even if you don’t do anything with the online thing, please take out a few pennies or a couple of ones, whatever, and put them in the bucket as you come out of the stores. You can give more than once, too.
Please note: All donations given through the “Online Red Kettle” campaign will be distributed locally to the geographic area where the donor resides, based on the donor’s zip code.
I don’t know about how it would work for some of my foreign friends, so the link to their international site is http://www2.salvationarmy.org/ihq/www_sa.nsf
I do have to say that I had a little trouble navigating their web page and had to figure out how to put the links in right. I think the links at the top of the page are working correctly now, though, so use those, if you would please. To get to my kettle I had to click on the “Host your own kettle” link and then search on my name. I hope you will not have too much trouble, most of you except Carter are smarter than me anyway; although Carter’s socks may be a sentient being…Sorry, a little digression there, don’t step in it until we can get it cleaned up.
Anyway, please donate online to my kettle, start your own kettle under my group name, start your own kettle on your own AND don’t pass a red kettle without throwing something in.
And though it’s early, Merry Christmas!
Remember, the GOOD BOOK says, “And thou shalt not glean thy vineyard, neither shalt thou gather every grape of thy vineyard; thou shalt leave them for the poor and stranger: I am the LORD your God.”“For the poor shall never cease out of the land: therefore I command thee, saying, Thou shalt open thine hand wide unto thy brother, to thy poor, and to thy needy, in thy land.”