How many years does a family have to repeat an event to label it a tradition? Last week the Nymans participated in our 2nd annual ringing of the bells with the Salvation Army. Thanks to Linnea’s research and scheduling, we rang at two Walmart doors in Michigan City, manning two red kettles for two hours. It wasn’t difficult to stand in the cold when Walmart’s wide doors opened again and again, wafting warm air our way and welcoming us inside when we needed a warm-up.
Skylar and Micah did beautifully, never complaining about the length of time they were “stuck” ringing bells. The children’s cheery, “Merry Christmas!” to each contributor brought far more donations than we would have seen without them being there.
As was true last year, the bell-ringing offered a classic opportunity to study human nature. When the 20-something girls were ringing, male contributors were plentiful. One said, “You two are the best lookin’ elves I’ve ever seen. I wish my name was Santa Claus.”
Another told Nelson, “I force my kids to ring these bells every year. They don’t like it, but it’s good for them.”
This year we learned that what gets plunked into the red kettles isn’t always money. Throughout the country kettle-counters find treasure ranging from valuable antique coins to engagement rings. The Army doesn’t hold these treasures but has them appraised, then sells them and puts the proceeds into their programs.
Last year gold coins began showing up in random states throughout the nation just before Christmas: Indiana, Florida, Illinois, Tennessee, Georgia, Colorado, Washington. Most of the coins were solid gold, minted in the early 1900’s, worth about $20 at the time but now appraising for $1500 – $2000.
One kettle contained a diamond and sapphire ring. “Wrapped in a rubber band was a $50 bill, and inside the $50 bill was a note, and inside the note was a ring,” the counter said. The note read, “They need more than I. Do good! A friend.” It was appraised at $2000.
Another special find was a gold nugget that was eventually auctioned for $4000. That donation, too, included an anonymous note from the generous donor. Once in a while kettle-counters find large bills with notes that say, “In memory of…” their loved one. One such contribution has been made every Christmas for 7 years, a $1600 gold Liberty coin “In memory of Mimi.”
Generosity is a character trait God highly esteems. He’s especially delighted when people give from sparse resources, because he understands our temptation to hold onto what little we might have. But leave it to him to include a return-blessing when we give: “Whoever sows generously will reap generously.” And that’s especially good news when money is tight.
Our family’s minimal participation with the Salvation Army was a blessing for sure, and I think a family tradition has been born.
“In the midst of a very severe trial, [the Macedonians’] overflowing joy and their extreme poverty welled up in rich generosity.” (2 Corinthians 8:2)