Bell Ringing for the Salvation Army

Bell Ringing 2020 Blog – Written in 2018


“Christmas isn’t Christmas until I hear the Salvation Army Bells,” said someone to me as he put a few dollars into the red kettle.
This is my third year helping the Salvation Army raise money as a bell ringer. It is going onto my thirty-third year as a resident in a poor city and the fourth year existence of a Kroc Center in Camden, New Jersey, near where I live.
God bless Joan Kroc for making it possible to have multi-million dollar Kroc Centers in twenty four low- income cities across the United States.


She wanted “poor people” to have the experience of belonging to a country club.
I don’t mingle much with the country club set, but my mother did. So maybe that’s why I don’t.
I like to mingle with a multi-cultural, multi-religious cross-section of people from all walks of life.
And the bell ringing is exactly the place to do that. Walmart, Acme and a large suburban mall were my locations. I was struck by how nice everyone was.  Was it the Salvation Army Red Kettle that brought out the best in people?  Or was it perhaps  human beings are not “sinners” as my church background taught?  Perhaps human beings are basically saints – if they are allowed to be.  If they don’t have to suffer through world-wide atrocities they are exposed to daily.

Imagine a multi-cultural world where everyone can choose a daily diet of self determination. A place where education, music, sports, church, are available at low cost without fear of judgmental dictatorship.
That is what Joan Kroc wanted to give to our country – through the Salvation Army managed Kroc Centers.

My first experience standing and asking for money from passersby was for a project in Ann Arbor as a University of Michigan undergraduate sixty years ago.


And then there was a huge gap in my street-solicitation experience.
My life-long giving has been through job-related organizations, non-profits and volunteering. In fact, I remember my father getting mad at me as a child for giving some money to a street beggar. Perhaps he wanted to teach that “people are not always as they seem.”

How extraordinary at this late stage in my life, that I have accumulated seventy-four hours of bell ringing for the Salvation Army. My previous experience of the Salvation Army was only through the musical “Guys and Dolls” with Marlon Brando. (See YouTube clip of “I’ll know when my love comes along.”)

Countless stories of people’s pasts came out as they dropped coins, bills or even personal checks into the red kettle.

I like the Salvation Army ad:  “Whether it’s an apartment fire, a hurricane, or a personal storm in life, the Salvation Army is there.”

I believe this is true – and that they do it for all people, without discrimination.

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