A few days before Christmas, I did my favorite thing that I dread to do. I rang the Salvation Army bell at a local retailer for an hour. I guess the dread comes from not knowing when you sign up how the weather will be when you go to ring the bell; knowing that something else may come up, and knowing that you will be annoying a few folks as they try to get their shopping done.
But, after it is over, I always realize that is it something I love to do and that I have been reminded of the reasons why.
One reason is that I can’t tell the lady that runs the operation, Suzanne McFarlane, no. She does so much for the community and works with so many different causes and organizations. This project is her life for over two months each year, as she visits with groups and individuals about taking some time to ring the bell; reminding them when it is their turn; making sure everything is ready to go, and filling in for those who find out they can’t be there when scheduled. The least I can do is to donate an hour of my time. I know if I don’t, she will be out there spending another hour ringing the bell herself ,or she will send her husband, Angus, out to ring the bell for another hour.
I also can’t and won’t say no because I have been associated with Troop 4 for almost 50 years. In each of those years and a few more, Angus has been the scoutmaster and Suzanne the one that has kept the troop going. No doubt I want them to see that their example and the many times of reciting the scout oath have taught this 60-year-old Boy Scout and many others “to do my best to help other people at all times.”
Another reason I love ringing the bell is the cause. I believe the Salvation Army performs some valuable services locally, nationally and internationally to help those who need help. The “Salvos,” as I have heard them called around the world, were formed over 150 years ago in London and now serve in over 100 countries. Locally, according to the Oklahoma Salvation Army Website, they offer casework services, disaster services, emergency financial assistance, emergency shelter and various seasonal services.
The final and biggest reason I love to ring the Salvation Army bell is the people of Ada and the surrounding area. I believe I live among the most generous, supportive, caring and grateful people in the world. If you don’t believe me, come and ring the bell for an hour, and you will see what I mean. For every person whose expression or body language seemed to indicate I was annoying them, there were many, many more who reacted in a positive way. Those are the folks who made my whole year in just one hour.
It was the folks that thanked me and said they appreciated that I was there ringing the bell. It was the folks with both hands full of bags of groceries that put them down to dig into their pockets or purses for the change they had just received. It was the folks that you could tell had put aside some money for the red kettle as soon as they had decided to make the trip to the store.
It was the folks, young and old, who smiled and said: “Merry Christmas” or “God Bless You” as they went by. It was the folks that said as they put in their money, “If everyone would just put in a dollar, think of what could be done to make the world better.” And it was two men years apart in age and some 30 minutes apart in making their donation that really touched my heart. Both quietly told me as they donated that they had promised their deceased mother that they would put in a dollar every time they saw a red kettle.
But, more than anything, it was the children that, once again, made this one of my favorite things to do. I could tell some had asked for money, some had been given money and some had their own money to donate. It was great to see the smiles on their faces, their confidence and, for most, their solemnness as they approached the kettle. It was easy to see how proud they were to help as they carefully inserted their bills or coins into the slot. I really believe they knew what their money was going to do. Thank you, parents, grandparents, uncles and aunts, for what you are teaching our youngsters about giving and helping others.
For those who might be wondering, it is never too late or too early to help out. Donations can be made online or locally anytime. Suzanne McFarlane would be happy to talk with any group, organization, business or individual about how they can donate now or sign up to ring the bell next year. She can be contacted by phone at 580-310-2840 or by email at email@example.com.
For Suzanne McFarlane, filling up those red kettles is a year-round mission and her life for two months. Please help her, the Salvos or any of the other great Ada groups and organizations however you can as they do their valuable and much-needed work.
I have to confess I am already dreading, just a little, signing up to ring the bell next year. But, at the same time, I can hardly wait to be out there being reminded of the generous, caring, great community I call home.
Finally, a special thanks to Suzanne McFarlane for all you do. Please sign me up for next year, and I hope many others will make your day by giving you a call or sending you an email to say thanks, donate or offer to help!