For many years, the Christmas season began for me the day I rang the bell for The Salvation Army. Many special memories remain bright with me.
By tradition, members of The Salvation Army Metro Atlanta Advisory Board volunteered to staff the three kettles at entries to the downtown Macy’s when it was still a shopping mecca. I preferred a kettle on Peachtree Street at noon on a Monday so I could harass the well-heeled Rotarians streaming by to their meeting in the next building and the lawyers pouring out of the 191 Building to a power lunch.
Drawing the short straw one day, I was positioned at the rear door — and in place for one of those memories.
A half block away, a man came my way with that slow, flat-footed shuffle of an alcoholic. With a blanket rolled over his shoulder and a stuffed shopping bag in hand, obviously he was homeless. He focused on the kettle setup. Uh-oh, I thought, he’s going to ask for a handout. That happens now and then. Ringers are to direct the request to a Salvation Army service center.
Still ringing away and urging donations, I watched him out of the corner of my eye. Passing by, he went behind me where the smoking stand was piled high with discarded Styrofoam boxes from the cinnamon bun shop just inside Macy’s. He found nothing.
Retracing his steps, he paused before the kettle, reached deep in his trouser pocket and brought out a dime, a nickel and perhaps three pennies — 18 cents — and dropped them in the kettle.
“I wish I could do more,” he said as he moved on.
“Friend,” I replied to his back, “You have done more for me this Christmas than you can know.”
I think of that man from time to time and hope that spirit has prospered. Perhaps today he is ringing a bell for The Salvation Army.
-Written by Jim Montgomery, a dedicated Salvation Army Advisory Board member and veteran bellringer!