Today’s hero is part of the Army. But like Hebrew National Hot Dogs, they answer to a higher authority; not Uncle Sam.
We’re talking the Salvation Army. This is one of our favorite charities and consistently they receive an A rating because a very high percentage of their intake goes directly to neighbors in need. As you might imagine their Christmas Red Kettle campaign is a huge part of their annual income and they help over six million families over the holidays. And this time of year we love to see them at work. The ringing of the bell symbolizes the hustle and bustle of Christmas.
In our area volunteers often man the kettles. Sometimes the local celebrities and politicians can be found ringing the bell and there are always lots of people willing to donate to those kettles but more often just an individual, someone who sees the Salvation Army as a worthwhile charity and finds the time in their day to spend the afternoon outside, hoping for a filled pot.
Sometimes they look a little lonely out there. But then Matthew walks up and their faces turn to smiles.
Let me back up a little.
Over the years it’s been a project of ours to help Matthew overcome his shyness around others by having him put money in the Red Kettle at Christmas. For him this has been a challenge. He’d try to be speedy like Flash and toss the money at the kettle but more often than not it would sit on top or worse, fall onto the ground causing a major distraction. If the coins sat on top of the kettle the bell ringers would tell him that he had to push it into the little slot. Oh my gosh, it was even worse when they would talk to him. No longer could he be Mr. Invisible.
But little by little, Christmas by Christmas he went from throwing a tantrum when I’d try to hand him some coins to a point where he’d start looking for money in the car when he saw the kettle and heard the ringing. It’s a teeny tiny step I know. You guys with kids who don’t have such problems may not understand the small increments forward that we call progress in our house. Slowly, slowly we march.
So today when Matthew walks up to the bell ringer and carefully puts his coins or dollar into the kettle and pauses before heading inside my heart swells just a little. For him it’s a big step. And what’s more amazing is how those very same bell ringers, the ones who may have been feeling a little sorry for themselves, notice him too.
And they smile.
Suddenly, they remember why they are standing out there in the cold weather… Maybe they are reminded of the widow who gave her last two mites to the church. Or maybe they just see someone walking up who really sees them, someone who is not hurried by the hustle and bustle of the holidays. Or maybe they just see Matthew, a unique individual who really is happy to share his coins and hear them wish him Merry Christmas.
Today’s Salvation Army Bell Ringer.
She was so excited to have her picture taken that she asked if I’d take one with her camera so she could share it with her own family.
Today we have a challenge for you, dear readers. When you are out shopping the next couple weeks would you put in a few coins to the Red Kettle and think of Matthew while you are out there? And it would be especially amazing if you would take a picture of yourself and/or your Bell Ringer and send it to us (projectmat). Matthew would be thrilled to see them and I’d be happy to share them with others.