The Politics of Giving

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Mudslinging, finger pointing and harshly drawn lines have become the norm, not just at election time, but throughout the year. There is, however, one arena of life that knows no politics. Giving!

I learned this first hand a couple of years ago while in search of a second job to help my sagging finances. The opportunity given me was to ring bells for the Salvation Army. Not quite sure what to expect, but in need of the funds, I accepted.

The weather was great at first, but during the course of the season, it got cold, windy, rainy and yes, ultimately, it snowed. I quickly learned to layer my clothes for maximum warmth. And, remembering the advice of a drill sergeant from military training, I was careful not to lock my knees during the long periods of standing in one place.

One skill I hadn’t thought about, but had to master, was the ability to keep the bell ringing without my hand and wrist going numb. I finally got a rhythm going and sustained to let all of the passers-by know that I was there.

People surprised me by giving so generously so early in the holiday season. They came to give from all walks of life; young and old, blue collar and white collar, and different ethnic backgrounds. Moms and dads stopped with their children, teaching them not just about helping others in need, but also about the irrefutable joy of doing so.

I tried to help instill the lesson by telling the children that their gift would be helping other children like themselves as well as adults and made sure to thank them for giving. Many children gave money they had earned and saved on their own and did so with toothy and toothless grins stretching from ear to ear.

One gentleman, who stopped to give, shared with me that the Salvation Army had helped him one year when he was greatly in need. And now he just can’t pass a kettle without stopping to give something back.

An elderly lady pulled up to the curb, rolled down her window and asked me to put her money in the kettle for her as it was so difficult for her to get in and out of the car.

A young teen, skateboarding with his friends, made a point of stopping to add funds from his own pocket. The smile on his face reflected how it made him feel to be able to help.

And a young woman, who told me that she had finally gotten a job, stopped with her cart of groceries to pass on the blessing.

Still, others would stop and after dropping their money into the kettle, would tell me, with   distressed looks on their faces that it was all they could afford to give. People were not shy when it came to helping others, and so, the sharing of blessings and stories continued on throughout each of my shifts.

Another wonderful benefit of this job was making so many friends. No matter what location I was working, someone would always stop to talk for awhile. I’m sure it was to keep me company and to have company as well. They would share choice tidbits of their lives. They spoke of births, deaths, travels and most importantly, finding God.

One longtime recovering alcoholic was now a minister and worked with others trying to survive lives like his own past. As he blessed the kettle with funds from his own pocket he explained how the work he did was yet another way to help others.

I thought about all the ways to give and realized that the Salvation Army was so versatile in that respect. After all, I and many others had been given paying jobs when we most needed them.

Giving isn’t defined by just “blessing the kettle.” It’s volunteering your time, donating blood, or maybe just lending an ear when someone needs to talk or a shoulder to cry on through rough times. But, one thing I know for sure, there are no politics in giving.

By Sharon A Lewis
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