For the past several years, I’ve had the opportunity to ring the bell for the Salvation Army through my Rotary Club.
Some years have been cold, others relatively mild, some rainy and one, even, was snowy.
But year-in and year-out, it’s easy to remember why I do it. Without fail, a small child – one who certainly doesn’t really understand the value of money – asks his or her mother for some money to put in the bucket.
Last weekend, I watched as one boy approached the front door of the Walmart where we were soliciting and asked his mother what they were doing. His mother explained in an overly-simplistic way that we were asking for money to help people. He asked her if he could put some money in the bucket and she told him they would when they came out of the store.
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True to her word, they came out of the store a little while later and the boy had a dollar bill in his hand. He had to reach high just to get to the top of the bucket and one of our volunteers helped guide his hand as he put the money in the slot.
He stepped back and stared at us as we all said thank you and then he looked at his mother and smiled. They went off into the parking lot. His $1 alone might not go very far, but there was a steady stream of people stopping off at our bucket and dropping change and paper money into our bucket.
There is nothing quite like the feeling you get from watching other people do something nice.
But this year, there was an even more significant revelation than normal. I was manning the bucket as part of a Rotary club project and, each year, we invite members of the local Interact Club to help us.
As we were ringing the bell, one of the students asked me what the Salvation Army did with the money. I explained a few of the programs and services they offer to people in our region and before we finished the conversation someone else walked up and stuck few dollars into the bucket.
What the student said next caught me by surprise.
“I’ve seen these buckets for as long as I can remember, but I’ve never stopped and put money in one of them. I’m going to do it from now on,” she said.
I smiled, but in my head, I was thinking “Bingo! Another person has learned an appreciation for the value of charity.”
I believe that girl will make good on her promise. I doubt she’ll ever walk past another Salvation Army bucket without dropping some pocket change, or a few dollars, in the bucket.
Perhaps, one day, when she gets rich, she’ll be like one of those people we read about from time to time who calmly drop a check in the bucket for $10,000.
Regardless of how much she gives, she has learned the great value of giving.
It’s not in how much you give. The value of giving is that you do it for the right reason. That high school student learned what the money does. That little boy learned that the money helps people. In their own way, both of them learned that there is value in giving and that there is no better feeling than giving without any expectation of receiving anything in return.
Both those experiences reminded me again this year of why I like to ring the bell for the Salvation Army each year. And they are more than enough incentive for me to return next year when it’s our turn to wear the red aprons, ring the bells and say “Merry Christmas” and “thank you” to dozens of people I don’t even know.