Sunday, November 9, 2008

Working at the Sal

When I was in the eighth grade, I took on a non-traditional job. I became the pianist for The Salvation Army. Most people are unaware of the fact that The Sal is a church first and an outreach organization second. So, every Sunday morning, Sunday night and Wednesday night, I went to my "job" playing the piano.

Over the years, my job duties increased. I helped in social services, prison outreach, nursing home and children ministries, the thrift store, bookkeeping, and eventually my first real job out of college would be at one of the divisional headquarters in disaster services.

But the one job that I held that is most vivid to me is that of bell ringer. Every year I am reminded of this position when the bell ringers come out in full force. It wasn't a paid position. I would help out when the "volunteers" did not show up for their duty or when there was just a shortage of help. I had seen first hand how the money from the bell ringing campaign was used and knew it was critical to our community support efforts.

I remember the first night I was out there ringing. At first, I thought I was going to lose my mind. The constant clang of the bell. The freezing cold wind. Virtually no one to talk to except for the occasional "thank you" and I do mean occasional. I pressed on for my three hour shift and then went home to my nice warm bed.

The next night, I started in with my clanging and went back into my trance. But this time, I started thinking about how few people that walk by actually drop money in the kettles. It was sad, maybe 1 in 20. Next, I did the math on how much money my kettle would bring in for the night if each person walking by dropped only a quarter. Just one quarter from each person that walked by that night would have made my kettle one of the top producers. But that's not what happened, I stood out there ringing away and got the occasional drop. Night after night, it was much of the same.

Now that I have kids, I want to make sure they understand the importance of giving back. Whether it be through their time (which we will do later this year), giving their toys away, or putting away some of their own money to give to someone in need.

This weekend we were out and saw the first bell ringers of the season. And this year is the first year the kids have both been old enough to truly understand what the kettles are all about. I was so proud of both of them for asking me for money to put into the kettle and even more so when they began telling me what the money would be used for.

Times are tough for all of us. I can almost guarantee that if you are reading this post you have felt the tough times. However, most of us do not know what it feels like to go to bed hungry or cold because we do not have electricity or a roof over our heads. Heck, most of us do not go a full week without ordering fast food at a drive thru. Think about that this year as you walk past those bell ringers. Dig in your purse or car seat for that extra change. Be radical and give up a meal out this week and give that money away. Somewhere, someone you will never know will receive that blessing.

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