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Last week I did something I never thought I’d do.  In some ways, I even felt bad for the people whose lot it befell every Christmas season:

I stood sentry over a Salvation Army famed red kettle and rang my little bell like there was no tomorrow.

Ringing the Salvation Army red kettle at Christmas

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Gifts of ALL denominations are needed and GREATLY appreciated!! 


And I loved every minute of it. 

It was an uncharacteristically warm December afternoon – near 80 degrees and a balmy breeze – and though it didn’t feel like Christmas on the outside, it sure felt like Christmas and charity and beauty on the inside. 

With a favorite story from Emily Freeman’s A Million Little Ways still ringing in my ears, I was the “violinist” offering my gift.  I chose to make my bell ringing an artful gift offering, and I was fully present and engaged in the presence of everyone who wasn’t afraid to speak.  For two hours, I remained mindful that I’m “an image-bearing poem, called by God to offer myself alive in the world, for God’s glory and the benefit of others.” (p. 165, A Million Little Ways.)

Confession:  I have never consciously done anything like that “to the glory of God” and to practice what Emily preached in AMLW made all the difference in the world (anyone who has self-doubted what they have to offer needs to read this book).

Because of my attitude and approach, this small act of service was delight not drudgery.

Unexpectedly, I learned a lot in those two hours, and so I offer you:

10 Things Salvation Army Bell Ringers Want You To Know

10 Things Salvation Army Bell Ringers Want You To Know

1.  We aren’t judging whether you give…or not!  I’ve always assumed some level of guilt if I didn’t put money in the kettle, that the ringers were judging me.  This could not be farther than the truth!  Bell ringers actually don’t care if you don’t give (keep reading!!).  You don’t have to explain you’ve mailed a check in or that you gave last time, I promise.

2.  We aren’t judging how much you give!  Have a pocket full of change?  Fantastic!  Found a dime when you got out of your car?  Drop it in!  Got a wad of ones you’d like to unload?  Bring it!  It is not the size of your donation that matters, we’re thrilled with every person who’s willing to give regardless of amount.

3.  We love eye contact and a friendly greeting.  Speaking to Salvation Army volunteers is a gift in and of itself.  We appreciate it.  Especially for a lone volunteer, your kind words are good company.  A simple “Merry Christmas” or “Thanks for what you’re doing” are perfect acknowledgment.

4.  Making eye contact and speaking is not a contract to give.  Speaking does not obligate you in any way to contribute.  Please don’t not speak because you don’t wish to/aren’t able to put money in the kettle.  Remember, no one is judging.

5.  We like to hear your stories.  Tell us about the time you volunteered.  Let us know if you’ve ever benefited from the Salvation Army’s ministries.  It reminds us why we’re lending our time to this worthy cause.

6.  We notice when you avoid us.  We’re staring straight at the parking lot for two hours; we know where you’re coming from and where you’re heading.  Really, truly, you don’t have to cut a wiiiiide path to avoid us.

7.  You give us great ideas.  One man said he always carries a pocket full of change in every denomination–four quarters, five dimes a few nickles and pennies.  “That way,” he explained, “You always have what you need when something requires change.”  Simple brilliance.

SAimage8.  Giving teaches your children.  The sweetest contributions came from the little ones.  Their eyes twinkled.  They delighted in the giving.  And, if you take advantage of this visual teaching opportunity, you can seed a spirit of generosity in your children that hopefully will last for life.

9.  You, too, can volunteer!  The Salvation Army would LOVE for you to volunteer!  Check out your local operation and let them know your availability.  Bell ringing is a fantastic family, friend, youth group or school club activity, but there are other ways to get involved throughout the year.

10.  If the bell ringer happens to be a friend of yours and she tells you she has to use the bathroom, for goodness sakes, take the bell out of her hand and relieve her so she can GO!  This happened to a friend (who contributed some ideas to this post) who ended up having to wait until her volunteer relief showed up before she could use the restroom.  (Note, a reader clarified in comments that all volunteers may take a break if necessary by returning their kettle to Customer Service while they take care of bidness.)

The Salvation Army has been around for over 130 years and it helps people in a number of ways; last year alone it serviced over 30 million people.  Its mission is simple:  “…to preach the gospel of Jesus Christ and to meet human needs in His name without discrimination.”  What you may not realize is most of your money stays local, to help people in your community; and I read that 82 cents of every dollar goes to direct assistance, not administrative costs.

My real life experience was so positive, I’d like to offer my support for the Salvation Army virtually!   I’m inviting you to join me:


As you’re planning year-end giving would you please consider making a contribution to my Online Red Kettle?

My goal is modest and any amount is welcome.  Would you also share my post?  If you’re like me, the more you learn about the Salvation Army, the greater your admiration will grow.  I had no idea the breadth of support for our local communities until agreeing to volunteer; digging deeper I’ve only grown in my respect for an organization that has faithfully served those in need for over a century.

Thank you in advance for giving.  It blesses me, yes, but so much more a people in need.

Your turn:  Do you have a story about volunteering for the Salvation Army?
Have you been a beneficiary of their services?
Please share by clicking Comments under the post title and tell us about it!

UPDATED:  Heartfelt thanks to all of you who are sharing this post!  Every FB Share, Like, Stumble, Tweet (or sharing w/YOUR local Salvation Army) blesses my socks off!  I didn’t realize how many misconceptions I had about Salvation Army Red Kettle Bell Ringing until I had the pleasure myself.  (And while you’re here, consider subscribing to my blog?  It’s free and your subscription is greatly appreciated.)

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