I emptied my change into the bell-ringer’s kettle—a practice my daughter taught me. As I crossed the parking lot, a little girl of seven or eight came skipping past, clinging to her mother with one hand. In the other a dollar bill fluttered. “I just love doing this,” she said as she headed for the kettle. I smiled to think that her parents are teaching her the joy of giving. (Hopefully that and not that a dollar bill is enough to make you feel good.)
Last year someone slipped hundred dollar bills in ten kettles around Minneapolis/Saint Paul. Another appeared far to the north in International Falls. The same person or a copycat? Who knows, but wouldn’t it be wonderful if we had a hundred copycats in a hundred cities? That person (or persons) has definitely learned the joy of giving. He or she has even made a game out of it: how much can I give without getting “caught”?
We have heard a lot lately about the forty-seven percent who supposedly believe that they are victims and that the government has a responsibility to care for them. No one denies that Welfare needs to find ways to motivate those who are able to work, but I’m also hearing these days about a new class of poor—people who have lost jobs and perhaps their homes due to the recession. Many of these families have worked hard and never expected to need help. The Salvation Army has been preaching to the needy and helping them to get on their feet for a hundred and fifty years.
Did you know the Salvation Army is a church? When most London churches of the 1860s refused to accept the thieves, prostitutes, gamblers and drunkards converted in William and Catherine Booth’s street meetings, they continued to give them spiritual direction. Even today the Salvation Army holds religious services, usually in urban neighborhoods. The Sunday after my husband and I met at an Inter-Varsity Christian Fellowship training camp in the upper peninsula of Michigan, we sang a duet in a Salvationist church in Sioux Saint Marie. (“The God of Love My Shepherd Is,” as I recall. I really liked that guy, so the memory stuck.)
This is a week for giving thanks in the US. Most radio and TV announcers are pretty vague about to whom we are giving thanks, but I figure it doesn’t hurt the fifty-three percent to acknowledge that they didn’t get where they are all on their own.
As for me, I am thankful that we DO still have a job despite financial setbacks. I’m thankful that we have a comfortable home and no need to leave it, so fluctuating real estate values don’t hit me personally. I’m thankful that I don’t need the Salvation Army.
Or maybe I do.
Maybe I need brothers and sisters in Christ with long years of experience in a ministry that I would find overwhelming. Maybe I need their gifts of discernment and organizational skills. Maybe I just need to know they are there if the equivalent of Hurricane Sandy were to hit near me. Maybe I ought to be putting more than loose change in that kettle.
LeAnne Hardy has lived in six countries on four continents. Her books come out of her cross-cultural experiences and her passion to use story to convey spiritual truths in a form that will permeate lives.
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