…And If You Haven’t Got a Ha’penny…
Christmas is coming, all right. So is the cold. And, according to the latest reports, the colder…
It always awakes me when I see those ringers for the Salvation Army standing all day and into the pink-orange dusk brandishing that one-handled bell. They’re usually standing carefully between the exits and the entrances of grocery stores and mall entrances.
In fact, they’re told when hired to make sure the pot and stand do not block anyone’s entrance or exit. If possible, they’re supposed to open the doors for you as you approach the entryway.
Some wear red and green colors to remind us of the holidays; others don a festive hat and stamp about to keep warm. One gal I see sings with a little boom-box in accompaniment, and believe me, she can make the ice thaw off the store windows with that sweet southern voice of hers. She touches people on the arm when they give her something, and her blessing feels like something direct from the Vatican.
In Illinois, people who ring for the Salvation Army start at about $8.25 an hour. In other states where there are no minimums, it’s about a dollar less (like MO). On the upside, you’re not allowed to work more than 40 hours, so you won’t be taken advantage of or dare ask for overtime.
When I stray a bit from home, it isn’t unusual for me to know the person ringing the bell. For the homeless, it’s not a bad gig. $330 a week before taxes. Of course it’s temporary employment, but nevertheless it might get you a couple of rooms this month, or a few meals, or even a bike for the spring.
Tonight I watched people at the local Jewel entering and leaving to see if there was some kind of pattern to who gave, who didn’t, when they gave, if families made a difference, etc. But I couldn’t quite make it out. It was only 10 degrees outside, and I wasn’t able to take legible notes.
I’m sure the Salvation Army keeps stats.
Tonight, not many wanted to stop and give anything either.
But he kept ringing that bell and wishing everyone leaving or entering a “Merry Christmas.” What a trooper.
A really close friend of mine once listened to my self-absorbed whine about how sad this all seemed, especially during the Holidays, and she said something that changed me from then on:
Her: So what do you give the guy?
Me: I dunno, maybe a dollar or whatever change I have left.
Her: You know what I do every time?
Me: Give them a Krugerrand?
Her: No, jerk, but I would if I could. No, I give the pot a dollar, but I give the ringer $5 or $10.
Her: You know them better than I do. Why wouldn’t you? And you know what? They think at first you’re kidding, but guess what? They can use it better than anyone, appreciate it more than anyone, and – you should know that.
This is not to denigrate the Salvation Army, no, not at all. According to Snopes.com their CEO Todd Bassett receives a small salary of only $13,000 annually while managing a $2 billion organization. So, regardless of what you may do, the money you drop in that bucket is doing good. In fact, nearly the entire dollar goes to assistance for the needy.
Just remember quite often the ringer is the “needy” directly in front of you.
So, here’s an idea, if you haven’t done it yet.
Me: Hey, thanks for staying out here in the cold and doing this for everyone, all of us. What you do means a lot and makes a difference. Here’s a something for the pot and something for you for all your work.
Remember when Scrooge awakes on Christmas morning. It’s the same good feeling.