The man in the wheelchair was having a bit of trouble. He was overloaded with groceries and trying to steer his way among the people and cars back to where I supposed he was parked. Every time he stopped to turn or let a vehicle pass, the bags would shift. I thought I ought to help but I was a bit preoccupied at the moment…
I know next to nothing about the Salvation Army. I’ve heard of William Booth, the founder, but that’s about it. I know they collect a lot of money, but I have no clue how, to whom or where they distribute it.
They must be doing something right; the whole world trusts them to use it in a Godly way.
Diana Sealy and my first wife conspired to get me down to the red kettle in front of Mr. George Duren’s store. It was 42 degrees and the wind was whipping at my face mask. I was thinking I had completely lost what little mind I had left.
I was still eying the wheelchair when Jim Kennedy stuck a bell in my hand. I went to ringing like a man bent on earning wings for every eager young angel in Heaven!
But my heart wasn’t in it. I was just being polite. And mostly wondering how long I was “signed up” to stand out here…
The first guy who dropped a wadded-up bill through the rather small X shaped slit in the top of the kettle was a little on the rough side. I’m not judging here, but it did cross my mind that he might need to be taking something OUT!
He nodded to me like I was in charge. Hey, I’m just ringing a bell here.
The young boy was wearing shorts! He clearly didn’t get the memo about the arctic blast. Or he was a lot tougher than I was. He smiled up at me after stuffing in some money, “Thanks Mister.”
He was gone before I could repeat my “just ringing a bell” line.
“Merry Christmas” was my next greeting. It was an older lady wearing an Alabama football sweatshirt. It took her a minute to get all her bills in. I didn’t say nothing. But I’ve never seen anyone giving away money as happily as she was!
A mother got out a couple of bills and handed them to her child. He got the honor of shoving them through the slot. I was thinking, “Wow, what a great teaching moment” when the lady THANKED ME!
I was about to say I haven’t done a thing, when I saw the guy in the wheelchair reappear sans his load. He maneuvered his way slowly back through the traffic, over to the bucket, dropped in a sizable donation, and wheeled his way back into the morass…
Folks, I’m telling you, I got a right smart more interested in what was going on here!
And it was just the beginning. I don’t know how long I stood there. Time didn’t matter. As people made their way in, or out, of that store they stopped to give. Some looked like they could afford it. Some didn’t. Some came smiling. Some were more businesslike. Some were old. Some very young. Some were black. Some were white. Some were brown.
They all gave.
And I bet you some, maybe most, didn’t know any more about the Salvation Army than I did! They just knew it would help others. People who needed it! People maybe a little less fortunate than them.
Nothing complicated about it.
These generous hearts didn’t need a government study on poverty. They didn’t have to hear the “It’s more blessed to give than receive” sermon. They didn’t want a tax-deductible receipt, pat on the back or commendation from the late Mr. Booth.
I was all set to write the perfunctory 2020 “year-end article” looking back on the devastation wrought by COVID-19, a decidedly divided nation and the never ending “up in your face” finger pointing.
I found something standing out there in the 42-degree weather way better.
And inspiration.I went to ringing that bell like a man with a new lease on life!
“Merry Christmas” I practically yelled at the next donor, “Thank you so much. God bless you!”
Another mother brought a child to the bucket. I leaned down close, “Son, thank you! You are making a difference in someone’s life today!” As he skipped off toward the car… I realized I was one of those he was touching…
Yesterday I thought this nation was sinking faster than a lead ballast on the Titanic. Today, I see a little more clearly.
We can shake our collective heads at the pundits in Washington, marvel at the constant haranguing from the Fourth Estate and be embarrassed by the never-ending bickering by different groups in this country.
But that is not America!
The heartbeat of this nation is in parking lots – from sea to shining sea – this Christmas… giving all they can… cheerfully… lovingly…
This article originally appeared on The Star: Hunker Down: Talk about a real army!