The three of them were like all the other kids on their street. They couldn't wait for Christmas and everything that special day entailed. Their tree was decorated. The houses on their street were lit up cheerfully. School was over and all that was left was for Christmas Eve to hurry up and arrive.

It had been a difficult year. Their mom had lost her job. The house was up for sale. And money was tight—beyond tight. But that was OK because it was Christmas and miracles were supposed to happen at this time of year.

When they heard the knock at the back door that night, they all scrambled to answer it. In the light snowfall, with the glow of the porch light overhead, they could see a smiling gentleman with a big box in his hand.

“Merry Christmas!” he said, and handed over the box, which held a turkey, then another box with the fixings for a delicious dinner and finally another box that they weren't allowed to peek in.

“Merry Christmas!” the kids said breathlessly and watched as the man walked down their driveway, his footsteps crunching in the snow. Christmas had arrived, from The Salvation Army.

You Can Help
It's a true story. Those three children are all grown up now. But they haven't forgotten. One is a computer programmer, one is a personal support worker and the oldest is a writer. All now parents, all would move mountains and swallow their pride for their children, just as their mother had done more than 30 years ago.

Asking for help is a difficult thing to do. And that story will have a familiar ring to many this holiday season, because for some, times have never been tougher. And thankfully, The Salvation Army kettle campaign will be back to fill the need.

I've sat at the Salvation Army hamper registration tables and consoled crying parents who were dismayed that they couldn't give their family dinner, let alone Christmas.

I've been bear-hugged by people overwhelmed with gratitude. I've held crying babies while young mothers filled out forms and asked questions. I've unpacked bags and boxes full of handmade mittens, hats and thoughtful gifts from strangers caring about a child they'd never met. I've handed over bags of toys to “tough guy” dads who would rather cut off their right arm than ask for a handout.

I've stood at kettles and listened to stories of people who were able to turn their lives around. I've collected donation cheques from hardened judges and lawyers because they see the good that happens in their courtrooms when The Salvation Army is able to step in.

And I was one of those kids who had a Christmas because someone cared enough to give. I know what makes this work.

And I know that one person cannot do it alone.

Last month, the Christmas kettle campaign kicked off. The need is greater than ever and chances are, you know someone who will or has benefited from the help The Salvation Army has given.

There are many opportunities to volunteer. Get your hockey team to cover a day. Or cover a kettle while your kids are in school. You won't regret the hours you give. I'll be at a kettle again this year. Please stop by and say hello, and drop in what you can.

(Reprinted from The Londoner, November 1, 2012)

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