Later today I am heading out to do something I try to do every Christmas time.  I am going to spend an hour helping the Salvation Army raise funds by standing at one of their “Christmas Bells” inviting people to donate their cash to the work of the Sally Ann.  I was approached by one of their organizers and asked about helping out and immediately said “yes”.  He was a little taken aback.  I guess they’ve had a dickens of a time getting volunteers this year to the point that they’ve actually gone out and hired bell-ringers.  Hmmm.  But, as the spokesperson said—“it’s not only raising funds, it’s helping unemployed people make progress at this Christmas season”.  He may be right.  I don’t do it for “nothing” by the way–I do it because I get a tremendous shot of satisfaction in the experience.

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Over the years I’ve seen a few patterns develop.  Nobody curses at me as I stand there.  Most people are polite and quite a few smile.  About 25% actually donate.  One of the struggles is that fewer and fewer people carry cash these days.  I’ve noticed that more than half the donors look “poor”.  I know that sounds like a stereotype so I apologize in advance.  Often their outfit belies the fact that maybe they don’t have a lot of resources.  But interestingly, they have a little bit to put to the Salvation Army.  It’s amazing how many Aboriginals donate.  Of any group they would be the most consistent in giving.

A few years ago I was asked to stand next to the local liquor store.  I arrived early and set up the bell.  About 10 am a young fellow (maybe 10-12 years old) arrived and informed me that I was “in his spot”.  I asked about it and he informed me that every Saturday he spent the day there selling chocolate bars to people entering and leaving the liquor store.  I enquired about his charity and he said it was for “youth”.  I thought it was a good idea and I enquired about the “youth”–local sports teams?  children at risk?  “No” he replied “youth in general”.  When I quizzed him further he informed me that his dad had purchased an inventory of chocolate bars with the the label on them “For Local Youth Initiatiaves” and then empowered he and his brother to stand at two different locations in the community selling them.  The “Local Youth Initiatives” was this young man, his brother, and his dad as silent partner.  I asked how well he did and he figured he cleared about $100-$125  on a good Saturday.  I smiled at the set-up.  Pretty crafty dad.  No–pretty sneaky dad.   But on this day I informed Junior that he’d lost his spot and he was now relegated to stand over in a different area of the mall.  Higher needs than his trumped this spot!

I may be naive, but I admire and support the work of the Salvation Army.  I have seen them in enough disaster/crisis/trauma situations to know that they genuinely try to help.  If Jesus said “give a cup of cold water in my name” and meant it, these folks take it seriously.  So, for a little time later today you can count on me to “ring the bell”.  If you see a bell ringer, and you happen to have some cash…don’t be afraid to liberate it into the bell.