What I Learned Ringing the Bell

You might be surprised at what you can see and hear while ringing the Christmas Bell for the Salvation Army.  These last two weeks, I saw hundreds of people going in and out of our local Walmart, all coming within just a few feet of my Salvation Army Bell and Red Kettle.  Soon after I started ringing the bell, a few people stopped to chat, and it was then that I realized that I had a great opportunity to learn some new things.  I found that I was in the presence of authentic people living life, who were wanting and striving toward the best life they could create for themselves and their loved ones.

Let me share with you a few insights garnered from the people I was lucky enough to meet.

I saw a 60-ish daughter with her 85-ish mom carefully making their way into the store.  Mom had a cane in one hand and a firm grip on her daughter's arm with the other hand, slowed down by an ankle that was obviously a bit off center.  Clearly, Mom and daughter were on the same page, fighting together to preserve every bit of freedom and mobility Mom could possibly retain.

Several people came out of the store befuddled, as they had no recollection of where they had parked their vehicles.  None of them was upset — just amused to be facing another little hill to climb in the pursuit of a well lived life.  One clever gentleman had an app on his phone to help him locate his car.

A man wearing a Vietnam vet hat stopped by to chat, telling me of some of his struggles, which he attributed to being exposed to Agent Orange in Vietnam, returning from the war a broken and despondent man.  After 56 years as an alcoholic, he found sobriety at what he affectionately called "SALLY" and now volunteers there.  Others shared how grateful they were for the help received from the Salvation Army, smiling to ear to ear, wanting us to know that the Salvation Army changed their lives.

One of my favorite encounters at the Kettle was meeting a middle-aged man who had served as a firefighter in Connecticut.  He shared that even if he was fighting a fire at 3 A.M. in the dead of winter, the Salvation Army would be there as well, serving hot coffee.

I noticed that most people going in and out of Walmart were really not paying attention to me and my ringing bell.  However, if I took the lead by greeting them with a robust "Merry Christmas!," many would smile and return the greeting.  Over and over again, I watched as some would mentally stop in their tracks, turning from their inward focus so they could place a donation in the Kettle.

It became obvious to me that the Salvation Army has earned for itself a tremendous reputation in America.  One can only wonder how many millions of lives the organization may have touched.  My brief time ringing the bell was encouraging, as I witnessed all kinds of people taking a few moments to donate to the Kettle: whites, blacks, Hispanics, Asians, vets, young and old.  All were acting on an impulse to improve the lives of others at their own expense.  Knowingly or unknowingly, they were following in the footsteps of Jesus, who shared that the greatest among us is he who serves.  As the Gospel of Matthew relates, when the Baby Jesus we celebrate at Christmas became a full grown man, he informed his followers that he came "not to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many."

The Salvation Army is an organization comprising ordinary men and women whose lives have been changed by God.  Jesus served, so they serve.  They serve the less fortunate as a way to encourage all of us to seek God.  Their service contains no hint of judgmentalness, but is willingly offered to all so that some will find God, who is so ready, willing, and able to infuse them with his gifts of love, hope, joy, and peace.

To me, the Salvation Army is inspiring, a 21st-century illustration of the stupendous results possible when we choose to put others first.  Thank you, Salvation Army, for all you do, and thank you for providing me an opportunity to serve this Christmas season!

Image: Salvation Army USA West via Flickr.

You might be surprised at what you can see and hear while ringing the Christmas Bell for the Salvation Army.  These last two weeks, I saw hundreds of people going in and out of our local Walmart, all coming within just a few feet of my Salvation Army Bell and Red Kettle.  Soon after I started ringing the bell, a few people stopped to chat, and it was then that I realized that I had a great opportunity to learn some new things.  I found that I was in the presence of authentic people living life, who were wanting and striving toward the best life they could create for themselves and their loved ones.

Let me share with you a few insights garnered from the people I was lucky enough to meet.

I saw a 60-ish daughter with her 85-ish mom carefully making their way into the store.  Mom had a cane in one hand and a firm grip on her daughter's arm with the other hand, slowed down by an ankle that was obviously a bit off center.  Clearly, Mom and daughter were on the same page, fighting together to preserve every bit of freedom and mobility Mom could possibly retain.

Several people came out of the store befuddled, as they had no recollection of where they had parked their vehicles.  None of them was upset — just amused to be facing another little hill to climb in the pursuit of a well lived life.  One clever gentleman had an app on his phone to help him locate his car.

A man wearing a Vietnam vet hat stopped by to chat, telling me of some of his struggles, which he attributed to being exposed to Agent Orange in Vietnam, returning from the war a broken and despondent man.  After 56 years as an alcoholic, he found sobriety at what he affectionately called "SALLY" and now volunteers there.  Others shared how grateful they were for the help received from the Salvation Army, smiling to ear to ear, wanting us to know that the Salvation Army changed their lives.

One of my favorite encounters at the Kettle was meeting a middle-aged man who had served as a firefighter in Connecticut.  He shared that even if he was fighting a fire at 3 A.M. in the dead of winter, the Salvation Army would be there as well, serving hot coffee.

I noticed that most people going in and out of Walmart were really not paying attention to me and my ringing bell.  However, if I took the lead by greeting them with a robust "Merry Christmas!," many would smile and return the greeting.  Over and over again, I watched as some would mentally stop in their tracks, turning from their inward focus so they could place a donation in the Kettle.

It became obvious to me that the Salvation Army has earned for itself a tremendous reputation in America.  One can only wonder how many millions of lives the organization may have touched.  My brief time ringing the bell was encouraging, as I witnessed all kinds of people taking a few moments to donate to the Kettle: whites, blacks, Hispanics, Asians, vets, young and old.  All were acting on an impulse to improve the lives of others at their own expense.  Knowingly or unknowingly, they were following in the footsteps of Jesus, who shared that the greatest among us is he who serves.  As the Gospel of Matthew relates, when the Baby Jesus we celebrate at Christmas became a full grown man, he informed his followers that he came "not to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many."

The Salvation Army is an organization comprising ordinary men and women whose lives have been changed by God.  Jesus served, so they serve.  They serve the less fortunate as a way to encourage all of us to seek God.  Their service contains no hint of judgmentalness, but is willingly offered to all so that some will find God, who is so ready, willing, and able to infuse them with his gifts of love, hope, joy, and peace.

To me, the Salvation Army is inspiring, a 21st-century illustration of the stupendous results possible when we choose to put others first.  Thank you, Salvation Army, for all you do, and thank you for providing me an opportunity to serve this Christmas season!

Image: Salvation Army USA West via Flickr.