For Whom The Bells Jingle

“No one gets a blessing if they have cold feet 
and nobody ever got saved while they had toothache”
-William Booth
Salvation Army Founder 

Someone dropped a Krugerrand in one of the Salvation Army’s red kettles in Charlotte, North Carolina this week. The estimated worth of the gold coin: $1,200. It was a generous gesture meant to inspire. I hope it does.

The Salvation Army, often unrecognized and misunderstood, does what they say is the Lord’s work in every corner of the world.

Recently they were onsite and in the news: Hurricane ravaged Puerto Rico, the earthquake in Mexico City, the site of mass shootings in Las Vegas and the wildfire scorched coast of California. Always there, they offer emotional support, food, shelter and a spiritual lift.

I admire their work. I have for a long time. When the holidays come around, the bell ringers and the red kettles are a fixture in front of supermarkets, malls and city and suburban street corners. I welcome the sight of them.

The Salvation Army ranks are depleted now and they often have to recruit volunteers. The goal every year is to raise a $100 million dollars. It’s what they need for their mission. Quite a feat when you consider it’s mostly done with coins and small bills.

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William Booth along with his wife Catherine founded The Salvation Army back in 1852 in the East End of London. Their international headquarters are still there. Its storied history has been chronicled in movies, plays, newspapers and magazines.

Time Magazine correspondent Kate Pickert in 2008 wrote this about their mission:
“The Army, short on volunteer bell ringers,  pays some people to coax passersby into donating their spare change for the organization’s causes, which include disaster relief, soup kitchens, drug and alcohol counseling and homeless shelters…”

“In the U.S., there are nearly 8,000 Salvation Army locations, and more than 3 million volunteers assisting nearly 30 million people a year. Worldwide, the charity operates in more than 100 countries.”

Quite a legacy for the Salvation Army founder William Booth who as an evangelist prowled the London streets and alleys preaching the gospel to the desperately poor, the homeless and the hungry.

He embraced thieves, prostitutes, gamblers, morphine addicts and drunks, all the folks who were either rejected or considered unacceptable by the mainstream church. Seems to me we could use more men like Booth and his wife, today.

Watching President Trump toss out rolls of paper towels at an event in Puerto Rico gave me pause to wonder if he’s ever been on ‘either’ side of a soup kitchen line.

I admit I have. Both sides.  St. John’s kitchen in Newark as a volunteer and that’s largely because I stood on the other side of the line as a hungry itinerant one night and day in Dublin, Ireland.

Spent the night  (Christmas Eve) in a local jail drinking warm Guinness stout and singing songs with the Gardai, the police force of the Republic of Ireland.

The pastor of one of the local churches showed me the street in the cold and freezing rain. The Gardai were kind enough to give me shelter.

Then, on Christmas Day, it was dinner compliments of the Salvation Army. It was a long time ago.  But, it was one of the best meals I ever had. One I never forgot.

That’s why when I hear those bells jingle; I’m quick to remember. And, I assume the man or woman who dropped the Krugerrand in the red kettle feels the same way.

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