Sunday, December 28, 2014

Five Observations from the Salvation Army Red Kettle

Last Saturday my son and his friend Blake spent the afternoon manning a Salvation Army Kettle at our local mall.  This act of giving was to fulfill their Community Service requirement for their Honors Civics course.  I went along to provide coverage for extended bathroom breaks and food court runs.  Even though it was a tad chilly, I had a great time and learned several things . . .

1) Let Them Wear The Hoodie.  I will stop arguing with my kids when they want to run out the door wearing only a hoodie while their warm winter jacket hangs on the coat rack.  A majority of teenagers (and a lot of adults, too!) walked into that mall wearing only a hoodie.  As a mom I know the value of choosing my battles.  The Winter Coat War is being crossed off my list!

2) Pay Attention to Where You Park.  The number of people who forget where they park their car is quite hilarious!  Some people are embarrassed and try to slink up and down the rows of cars trying not to look like they are looking for their car.  Others stand at the end of a row loudly talking to themselves in frustration about how they can't believe they can't find their car.  One family even went as far to call mall security and the local police convinced that their car had been stolen.  While waiting for the cops, the dad proceeded to call at least 10 people to tell them his car had been stolen and he was going to get a "sweet new one" from the insurance.  It turned out he had parked by pole "17" in the upper Macy's lot instead of "27" in the lower lot.  There are simple ways to remember where you park - take a picture of the closest numbered pole, take a picture of your view of the mall from your spot, write down where you park.   

3) Hold the Door Open for Others.  I could not believe how many people did not hold the door open for the person coming through behind them!  Come on people - it is a simple turn of the head to see if anyone is there.  One lady was coming out with a stroller loaded with bags.  When the woman in front of her let go of the door, it slammed into the stroller causing all of the packages to fall to the ground AND woke up her sleeping toddler.  An elderly woman going into the mall ran into the edge of the closing door when the man going in ahead of her did not hold the door open.  Really, sir?  You almost knocked the cute little lady down!  

4) SMILE!  A simple smile can have a huge impact.  I was shocked at how few people smiled or looked happy as they walked in or out the mall.  As I stood there ringing the bell, I attempted to make eye contact with people, smile and wish them a Merry Christmas or Happy Shopping whether they put money in my kettle or not. In most cases I did get at least a smile in return and often a verbal response, too.  I know I felt a sense of victory when that happened.  Hopefully, my smile had an impact on their day if even for a moment.  I'm always telling my kids that a smile is the easiest, cheapest and sometimes best gift you can give to anybody at anytime.

5) Everyone Can Ring the Bell!  When I contacted the Salvation Army to see if JJ and Blake could volunteer they were more than happy to have us.  In fact, the Captain I spoke with told me that they were in desperate need of bell ringers.  As I stood ringing the bell that Saturday, many parents gave their young children coins to put in the kettle.  The kids were so excited and proud to reach up and drop in their coin. Several then stood there and looked at the bell in my hand.  "Would you like a turn to ring the bell?" I asked them.  Wide eyes.  Silent nods.  Small hands reaching for the bell.  Huge smiles.  They loved ringing that bell!  And I think they got more donations in those few minutes than I did during my entire shift as people flocked to the cute little kids.  The little ones' responses was a reminder to me that everyone can volunteer.  How different would our world be if more families took an hour or two of their time every once in awhile to help others?  What can your family do to help those around you?  I'm always talking about making healthy choices - volunteering our time is definitely a great exercise for the heart! 
The bell we rung was obviously old and well-used.  I thought about the
number of hands that clung to that handle before mine - very inspiring.

 I have to admit that I was pretty annoyed at JJ's assignment at the beginning of the school year - four community service projects?!?  We are way to busy to fit these in!  After spending an afternoon ringing that bell, I've changed my tune.  We've (Yes - We.  This has become a group project!) been able to see the difference we've made in people's lives and had fun doing it.  Even though JJ will be done with his Civics class next year, I'm pretty sure you'll find our family back at the Red Kettle ringing the bell next Christmas!

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