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Dec2FriHow a kind word from a Salvation Army kettle worker changed a grieving widower's life December 2, 2011 by Julia Hosking
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- Faith & Friends
Every toonie dropped into a Christmas kettle helps The Salvation Army to assist hundreds of families each year. But one $2 coin, tossed into a bubble in 2009, became a turning point in the life of John Younger.
“My wife of 45 years had died that November and I was still grieving and hurting two weeks before Christmas,” John says. “For some reason, I decided to get out of the house and buy some gift cards at the local shopping centre. When I came out of the store, I saw the Salvation Army kettle. I never put money into kettles and yet I tossed in a toonie. The woman on the kettle thanked me and cheerfully said, 'Have a Merry Christmas,' to which I replied, quite angrily, 'No way will I have a Merry Christmas.' ”
Taken aback by his harsh words, the kettle worker apologized for upsetting him, and John did likewise, explaining why he had reacted so. The kettle worker then suggested that attending the Christmas Eve service at Toronto's Salvation Army Scarborough Citadel might help ease his pain.
“Two weeks later, I was at home battling the decision to go to church,” John recalls. “Finally, I thought, All right, I'll go.
“As soon as I entered, I was greeted by a church member,” John continues. “After the service, I was invited to return the following Sunday. I went that week and the Sunday after that, and I haven't stopped. I felt like I was at home—with one big, happy family.”
A New Home
Shortly after Christmas, John joined a Sunday-morning Bible study and participated in a grief-support group. His positive experiences with the church and its members soon became contagious.
“Right from the beginning, John started to blend his own family into his new church family,” says Captain Shelley Kerr, the church pastor. John's granddaughter, Samantha Younger, was the first to attend, then his daughter, Barbara Klein, followed by granddaughters Candice Belfiori and Robin Klein.
“Now on Sundays, a full carload arrives for worship, and he and his family are usually the last ones to leave,” continues Shelley. “They enjoy the fellowship.”
“Church seemed to be helping Dad get some peace with Mom's passing,” relates Barbara. “As for me, I've tried a few churches in the past, but never felt I had a place to call home. I, too, have found my home in The Salvation Army.”
An Eager Volunteer
After an appeal was made for Christmas kettle volunteers in November 2010, John immediately put his name down—as did Barbara, Candice and Samantha (Robin was too young).
“Standing on the kettles was an opportunity to give something back for what the Army had done for me,” says John.
“John was one of our most dedicated volunteers,” says 2010 kettle co-ordinator Michael Hosking, “always willing to come in early or stay late if I needed someone to fill an extra shift, and he kept asking me for more hours.” Indeed, John stood on the kettles for 94 hours over five weeks, the most that any one person did at the church.
Receiving a Blessing
“The kettle ministry was a great experience for me,” says John. “Seeing kids, waist-high, coming up to put money into the kettle made me feel good inside. My time on the kettle, talking to people about their lives, also showed me that while I still miss my wife, I am blessed in many other ways.”
Although John and his family have been actively volunteering at the church throughout the year, they are all eager to get back out and ring the bell for The Salvation Army this Christmas.
“If somebody had said to me three years ago that I would be going to church and standing at the Christmas kettle for a second year in a row, I would have thought they were crazy,” concludes John. “And yet, here I am—and I wouldn't have it any other way.”