The community Bible study my husband, Jerry, leads at the YMCA commits to tending the Salvation Army kettle during a portion of the Christmas season. Jerry signed up for a noon to two slot on Saturday, and then texted me, “Don’t have a partner, would you be interested?”
Well, of course, I would.
I love those bell ringers.
As we rang the bell at the Kroger on Saturday, we were touched by so many who stopped to feed the kettle. Often, it would be someone we least expected who would pause, dig deep into tattered pockets, and empty all the change they had into the kettle. “Merry Christmas,” we’d say.
“Merry Christmas,” we’d hear as a smile creased a weathered face or eyes that had seen decades of Christmases twinkled a bit in response.
Children love to donate and when asked if they want to ring the bell, their faces lit up as if we’d offered them a new Smartphone. Such a simple thing caused such joy.
One little girl with cute braids took the bell, stepped up to the kettle, and began ringing in such a way, I thought she might take away our jobs. In fact, I’m pretty sure she would have won the hearts . . . and cash of all who passed.
I started thinking about why the kettle, and why the ringing? So, I checked the Salvation Army site.
One hundred and twenty-five years ago in San Francisco, Salvation Army Captain Joseph McFee was burdened over how to feed the poor a Christmas dinner. He put out a pot for donations similar to one he’d seen at the docks in Liverpool England and collected enough to feed 1000 of the city’s poorest, thus beginning one of our most enduring Christmas traditions―one that has spread around the world.
Someone has said, “Bell ringing helps people remember that there are people in their neighborhoods who won't have a Christmas without their help."
Today in the United States, the Salvation Army reportedly helps around four and a half million people during the Thanksgiving and Christmas seasons.
So I love, love, love the bell ringing.
Last night, Jerry and I watched It’s a Wonderful Life for the umpteenth time. I noticed something I’d forgotten. In the scene where the stock market crashes, George Bailey is in his office at the Savings and Loan and steps to the portrait of his father, Peter, who ran the savings and loan before him and was a man who lived to help others. Under his portrait a plaque read, “All you can take with you is that which you have given away.” I searched the internet to find the original source, but everything I saw attributes It’s a Wonderful Life as the source.
This time of year and all year long, it’s good to remember what really lasts are the acts of kindness and mercy―not the stuff.
So, turn your pockets inside out, too, and watch how your joy increases.
If you have opportunity to ring the bell, do it. And if you have opportunity to give, do that, too.
"Give away your life; you’ll find life given back, but not merely given back—given back with bonus and blessing. Giving, not getting, is the way. Generosity begets generosity" (Luke 6:38 The Message).
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