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    Kettle Caring

    There are as many reasons to give to The Salvation Army at Christmas as there are people who do so. December 6, 2018 by Jack Best
    Filed Under:
    Faith & Friends
    Jack Best (Photo: Fred Chartrand)
    The elderly lady rummaged in her purse for at least 10 minutes before coming up with a five-dollar bill. Having deposited it in the kettle, she pushed off on her walker to mingle with the crowds, paying no attention whatsoever to my “thank you.”

    And I marvelled, as I have so often since becoming a volunteer kettle worker for The Salvation Army in Ottawa some years ago, at the reluctance of most contributors to accept any kind of recognition for their generosity. It’s almost as if they feel embarrassed at being caught in the act, as though it would somehow detract from their moment of giving. 

    It would be hard to count the number of times someone has crept up when I wasn’t looking—or thought I wasn’t looking—and squeezed some money into the round transparent kettle and slunk away with a quick smile, a nod or a laconic “no problem” in response to my word of thanks.

    When it comes to the Army’s kettle campaign, charity often wears a face of determined anonymity.

    “We Have to Help, Right?”
    Something else that always impresses me is how parents use the kettle to deliver a lesson around giving. One day, I heard a mother say to her two little boys, “Do you know why that man is standing there and where all that money goes?”

    “To help people,” one of the lads replied. As if to show her appreciation for such a response, she opened her wallet, pulled out some money, then helped each of them in turn scrunch the note through the kettle slot.

    There are, of course, a few shoppers who breeze past me without so much as a sideways glance, but I prefer to remember those who do not breeze by.

    Take, for another example, the businesswoman who, noticing my wide-eyed look at seeing her push two $50 bills through the slot, noted briefly, “I meant to send in a cheque but didn’t get around to it”—intimating that nothing further need be said on the subject.

    Or the well-dressed woman who put in some money and, when I commented, “You’re very kind,” reflected for a moment before replying matterof-factly, “We have to help, right?”

    Gesture of Fellowship
    Something else I always find gratifying are the number of donors who take a moment to expound on what compels them to help The Salvation Army do its work.

    “The Sally Ann is the greatest at visiting prisons and soldiers at the front and when disasters occur,” explained a middle-aged gentleman, as though to add meaning to his gesture in parting with his money.

    “My brother-in-law always gave to the Sally Ann,” said one woman. Coaxing a five-dollar bill through the slot, she elaborated, “He passed away two years ago but we keep up the tradition in his honour.”

    But what I personally find rewarding—if a bit embarrassing—are the frequent contributors who turn the tables on me when I offer thanks for a donation.

    “Well, thank you for your time,” said one man, while his wife seconded the motion with a warm smile. I didn’t try to explain to her that my two- and three-hour shifts tending the kettle are more than rewarded by observing the uncounted acts of kindness.

    One gentleman had his own novel way of responding to my acknowledgment of his donation. Without saying a word, he gripped my arm for several seconds, in some kind of gesture of fellowship, before melting back into the crowds of Christmas shoppers.

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