Friday, November 16, 2007

'Tis The Season

I saw my first Salvation Army red kettle and bell ringer of the season tonight, and I had to stop and think if maybe they're out a little bit earlier this year than in past years.

Do they usually start ringing their bells a week before Thanksgiving? I can't remember.

I have a hard time walking past those without putting anything in, because I always feel like the bell ringers are aiming their bells right at me and ringing just a little more forcefully as I get closer and closer to (or farther away from) the kettle and they see that I'm not reaching for my wallet or my pocket.

I know that's not true, of course...but it feels that way, OK? Holiday guilt. What'cha gonna do?

I think what I might try to do this year is vow to put at least something in each kettle I pass when I'm out shopping. I doubt I'll be able to play the role of the anonymous donor you seem to hear about every year who stuffs a big gangster's roll of bills into a random kettle somewhere, and the next day is the subject of a one-minute blurb on the evening news.

But a dollar here and a dollar there certainly helps, too.

How do you react to the red kettles and the ringing bells? Do you ignore them and walk a bit faster past them? Do you drop some change in the majority of them you see throughout the season? Or do you volunteer as a bell ringer yourself?

"If you haven't got any charity in your heart,
you have the worst kind of heart trouble."
—Bob Hope


  1. As shitty as it sounds, I don't know if I've ever put a coin in. I probably have once or twice. But I can't recall any.

    The way I figure it, the bell ringers get nothing probably 90% of the time. So I don't feel guilt, seeing as they're used to it.

    It would be interesting to camp out in the car for 20 minutes, and watch to see how many people actually do throw something in. If I get a chance this year, I might just do that.

  2. To an outside like me (re: JEW), Christmas is both a wonderful thing to witness AND the strangest thing ever. I see people using "gifts as weapons," harbor endless "Chistmas guilt," and spiral into deep self-destructive debt that they don't crawl out of until Easter.

    As a kid, I possessed a distinct longing that I didn't get to celebrate Xmas. As an adult, I take great comfort in the fact that December 25th is just another day like all the rest.

    Oh and I always dump all my change and, on occasion, loose singles into the red tins.

    See, even though "we Jews killed Jesus" (yes, I've been told that by numerous people and Mel Gibson certainl didn't help set the record straight), we're still a friendly lot.

  3. According to Wikipedia: “The Salvation Army is a Christian charity and church that is internally organized like a military service. “ Knowing that they are linked to God stops me from giving them any money. If I did, I feel that I would then be supporting Christian beliefs……which I don’t. Why is it that everybody has to help in the name of God? Can’t people form a group to help others in the name of human kind?

    Here’s a quick story about something that happen to me earlier in the week.

    I was on my way to my car after shopping at Pick N’ Save around 9:00 PM when a tall, athletic black man starts to approach me. I see that he’s got a kid with him so I let my guard down a little and stop to hear what he has to say. The man hands me a piece of paper which I put in my pocket and then listen to his sales pitch. He starts out saying that he works for an organization that looks to help people who are less fortunate. They take in drug addicts, felons, abused women, etc. help get them on their feet by providing shelter and food AND teaching them the word of God. I stopped him right there and told him that I can’t help him because of my own belief system. I said that it’s shady that you take in people that have nothing, offer them help and then tell them that God is responsible for it all.

    Yep, you couldn’t have cleaned up your act without God………..or was it the generous people’s money that made it all possible, you tell me.

    I let him know that if they got rid of the whole God part that maybe I’d give some money, but because I don’t believe in God and can’t help. Its a good cause I told him, but pushing God on people trying to get their shit together isn’t cool. If people want to believe in God, they should find God themselves and not have it crammed down their throats. He didn’t like that so much.

    I started to walk away when he comes at me and say “Hold up…. I need to discuss this further with you” (let me add that it’s probably 28 degrees outside and windy as hell) I kept walking to my car but he started following me and going on how he is proof that God exists. “I’m a three time felon……I’ve been convicted of armed robbery, assault, dealing drugs…etc. How can a person like myself be out on the streets if it wasn’t for God.”

    My comeback – “I don’t know………maybe a failed legal system. If you were convicted for all those crimes you just mentioned your ass should not be out of prison. Isn’t there a 3 strikes rule in Wisconsin? Do you think you needed God to help you realize that you’re fucking up your life or could you have figured that out on your own? I think people are weak when they can’t look within themselves to make change and have to rely on some imaginary father figure.”

    He walked away after that and I felt bad for swearing in front of the kid with him…..something tells me that the kid has heard worse.

  4. I usually drop some coins in. I figure it adds up.

    I've briefly considered being a bell ringer several times in the past but never followed through. We'll see what happens. for a-bombs lovely little rant..

    Sigh. I'll leave it alone.

    And say a prayer for God to save his hell- bound soul. LOL

  5. If there is a hell, I'm probably heading there myself. But that's fine. It's where all the cool people will be - my friends and such.

    Watch me surf on the fire baby!

  6. A-Bomb...I disagree with your reasoning for not contributing to the Salvation Army. I feel that any money I put into those kettles is going toward helping they black, white, purple, Christian, Buddhist or Vulcan.

    I respect that it's completely personal preference as to how one spends his or her charity dollar or volunteer hour, but as far I as I know, when the Salvation Army is distributing this money, they don't make it a requirement that the recipient be a Christian in order to receive it.

    If this kind of discrimination was the case, then I would certainly rethink my contributions to the kettles.

    I do, however, agree with your reaction to the man trolling the parking lot, looking for donations and someone to listen to him spread the Word of God.

    If people have a deep faith and rely on God to help them through the tough times, and celebrate the good times, then I think that's great. Whatever helps carry you through this thing called life.

    And if you're a friend or family member and want to talk religion or politics or social issues...I'm all for it. Let's grab a beer or an iced tea and find a comfortable chair.

    But if you're a random stranger, please don't pepper me with your Godspeak. I don't try to push my beliefs on you...I'd appreciate the same courtesy.

    If I voluntarily go to listen to someone preach, that's one thing. But if I'm just trying to get out of the grocery store parking lot on a cold, windy night...that's quite another.

  7. If I have change in my pocket I usually throw some in, but if not I just lower my head and try my best to avoid eye contact with the bell ringer.

    But I feel bad about it, so that makes it okay, right? :)

  8. As long as you feel bad about it, Mrs. White, I think that makes it perfectly acceptable behavior.

    Oh, and avoiding eye contact is key.

  9. I've noticed the bellringers the last week throughout the city (on almost every block it seems), and like every year, I was reminded why I don't donate to them.

    I refuse to put a single dime in the red tin; and though g-o-d is a minor annoyance throughout the season "God Bless You" blah blah blah, it's not because of him or her or "it" either.

    The Salvation Army discriminates on the basis of their Christian foundations. They oppose and condemn gays and lesbians because of their lifestyle.

    Giving even a penny to the SA would be a slap in the face to my mother's memory, my gay/lesbian friends and other family members who happen to live a life that SA disagrees with and certainly would not contribute its money to.

    I give my money, my time, and even my used Banana Republic sweaters to charities that don't preach hate in the name of a higher power.

    Bravo to Target for banishing them!

    We can agree to disagree ggg, I still love ya.