Behind the Bell – Sixth Day of Ringing


Observations from 12 Days of Ringing the Kettle Bell for The Salvation Army
My sixth day of ringing the kettle bell brought a surprising observation.
I have been ringing at the same location this Christmas season. The retail place I ring at has a “designer coffee” shop located inside. Yet, it wasn’t the patrons who were the most generous. They were usually drinking their coffee creations as they passed, therefore, they seldom contribute.
The store employees were nice. Management of the store even allowed us to ring inside the first set of doors, protecting us from the rain and snow. Very nice. Yet by day six, I had yet to see one employee contribute.
While ringing for hours at a time, and spending a great deal of that time looking out glass doors to the parking lot, I noticed the vehicles driven by the store patrons. And, of course, I noticed what they wore. The affluent were obvious and very well mannered. A good percentage of them donated something nearly every time they passed the kettle. They were the silent contributors. Most offered a tight smile… But they don’t offer the highest percentage of contributions.
The most generous contributors to the bright red Salvation Army kettles are those who know the services of the Salvation Army, personally.
The ones I have met are the elderly, living social security check to social security check. And the struggling, single mother who can never seem to make ends meet since her husband left her…and their four young children. And the middle aged man who is out on parole, who wouldn’t have been able to give his children a Christmas present over the last five-to-ten without the aid of the Salvation Army.
They share their stories with me at the kettle. They never forget.
Now, I’m not suggesting they give the most in total contributions. But by day six, I could already begin to see a clear pattern of generosity at a retail location that enjoys an approximate 50% daily repeat customer base.
They are typically lost in thought, then they see the kettle or they hear the bell. It seems to pull them away from their thoughts and they stop. Many of them walk back a few steps to come in reach of the kettle. Many of them tell me why they are contributing and why they will continue to do so. Some apologize for not being able to give more…
I was shocked at the realization…and I was touched.
While I was contemplating the moment, I was reminded of part of a talk I heard years before. The speaker explained how those who knew the most pain, also knew the most grace. Those who had been in a place of great need recognized the peace of contentment. I can now add, those who know the Salvation Army in a personal way appear (to this writer/bell ringer), to be the most generous.
Do you have a Salvation Army story you’d like to share in the comments below? I’d love to hear from you.
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“In 1898, the New York World hailed The Salvation Army kettles as “the newest and most novel device for collecting money”. In 1901, New York City kettle collections provided for the first mammoth sit-down dinner at Madison Square Garden – a custom which followed for many years thereafter.” (Courtesy of The Salvation Army website)


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