Thursday, December 19, 2013

Red Kettles, Tradition and Why It's Important

“Hurry up, Mom. It’s cold!” complained my son as we stood outside a store, the first winter snow slapping us in the face. I was digging in my purse for a dollar to put in the Salvation Army red kettle. “Let’s just skip it,” he said. “What difference can just one dollar make?”

Just then I was able to put my gloved hand on the dollar bill I just knew was in there. I stuffed it in the kettle and we rushed on. But his comment, “What difference can just one dollar make?” weighed heavy on my mind. I wanted him to understand that it DOES make a difference; that our tradition of never passing a kettle without putting in a dollar was important.

So we volunteered one night to join other Salvation Army employees who volunteer to count kettle money. (No small feat for a germaphobe like me; money is riddled with grime and germs!)

Bell Ringer Eli Spillman
We all met in a secluded, private room and proceeded to empty the kettles that had been out with bell ringers that day. The paper money was all wadded or folded up as it must be to slip through the little slot on the kettles. Our job was to unfold each and every bill and smooth it out so it would go through a bill counting machine.

I was worried my 13-year-old would find it tedious and boring but he attacked the job in earnest, carefully smoothing the wrinkles from each bill, doing a little “happy dance” when the bill turned out to be a $10, $20 or $50 and dancing all the way around the room when he found a $100 bill. He was a good worker and as we left I was proud to accept compliments from the other adults about him and his great attitude.

But my “aha” moment came on the way home. We rode silently in the car; me focusing on the icy roads and him listen to “his” music through his headphones. Midway there, he took off the headphones, turned to me and said, “Mom, thanks for letting me do this tonight. Now I get why you put a dollar in every red kettle we pass.” With that he put his headphones back on and turned his focus to the screen of his phone.

I pulled into a QuikTrip and before getting out in the frosty weather to pump gas, I had to ask him what he “got” from that night.

He gave me that look that only a teenager can when they think you’re asking a question that they believe has an obvious answer and said:

“I realized tonight that it isn’t that the money WE put in that makes a difference, but it’s the money we ALL put in that does. If everyone did what we do and never passed a red kettle without putting SOMETHING in, just think of all the good things the Salvation Army could do with all that money. It’s pretty awesome, don’t you think?”

Yes, son, it is awesome. And so are you for “getting it”. I wish more did.

Friday, Dec. 20, from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m., the Tulsa Police and Tulsa Fire Department are having a bell ringing competition at Woodland Hills Mall. Go help them out!

Friday, Dec. 20 and Saturday, Dec. 21, money dropped in Salvation Army kettles will be matched dollar for dollar.

I invite you to join my son and I in our tradition of always putting something into every red kettle we pass. It makes a difference.


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