Talk It Up

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For decades now I’ve made a practice of putting some contribution in every Salvation Army kettle I pass (I have the same weakness for kids with lemonade stands). So, as Christmas ringing season begins, I load my pockets with bills — twenties when I feel flush.

As a veteran bell ringer, I earned a reputation for being assertive in greeting passers by. Some have used a stronger word than that, but I make no apologies for urging support of a great cause. Now, not only do I drop something in each kettle, I offer encouragement to the ringer, especially the less enthusiastic ones. “Talk it up,” I urge, “smile and look ’em in the eye, and ask for the donation.”

The ringer last year at my neighborhood Kroger was my kind of ringer. I believe he was one of the Army’s clients, paying his debt with service. No one passed without his joyful, friendly nudging. I stopped a couple of times to praise him. On about my third Kroger run, he pointed me out to a group of other shoppers.

“See that man?” he called, “He never comes by here without putting FORTY dollars in the kettle.” Well, my friend, that was inflating it a bit;  but he did tap me going in and coming out.

Those little bells the Army issues don’t attract enough attention. You gotta talk it up, you ringers.

-Written by Jim Montgomery, a dedicated Salvation Army Advisory Board member and veteran bell ringer!

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A Child’s Gift

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When downtown Macy’s closed, the volunteer Christmas kettle ringers of The Salvation Army’s Metro Advisory Board had to find a new location. The front doors of Lenox Mall became the spot. It was different from Peachtree Street: fashionable dress, valet parking and maybe, just maybe, more generous shoppers.

As I was urging a group exiting their car, I noticed a family approaching behind me. Handsome people, well-dressed parents with a five year old son and a seven-ish daughter. Targeted toward me, each child came with a bill clutched in a fist. Good momma and poppa, I thought, bringing them up right. After each had placed their treasure precisely in the kettle slot, they ran to join their parents at the door. I wished them all a Merry Christmas. The little girl — surely by now one of Atlanta’s great beauties — ran back to me, hugged me around the waist and dashed back to her family.

That, I thought, is deserving of an entry to Vent, the The Atlanta Journal-Constitution’s then-friendly public comment column. The thought passed.  To my surprise, four days later, the Vent told my story. Had someone witnessed the event and put action to my thoughts? Or was there an army of seven-year-olds out there melting the hearts of aging bell-ringers?

-Written by Jim Montgomery, a dedicated Salvation Army Advisory Board member and veteran bellringer!