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Monday, September 04, 2006

Those Red Kettles

Labor Day weekend is a busy one for any dedicated politician--AND for the many people from all walks of life who help toward the goal of winning and serving.

We in the Zinga for Congress campaign have some wonderful ones!

More on the weekend a little later, but since it's on my mind I want to tell you about a holiday experience that you just don't have every day.

The Salvation Army in the Quad City area has been doing a stellar job lately of presenting a fall concert of praise, and last night (9/3/06) snagged the #1 Christian rock group in the nation, "Casting Crowns", to appear in Davenport's Leclaire Park before a crowd of 8 to 10 thousand.

As a long-time member of the Salvation Army's Advisory Board, my hat is off to ALL the fine staff there--exciting things are happening every day!--but especially to Captain David Luft, and to Development Director Kathryn Bohn. You saw Kathryn's bio detailed in The Dispatch lately--she was the classy lady holding the beautiful blue flowers. This woman thinks big, and as so often happens, gets BIG results!

Having dodged rain already yesterday in Bardolph, Macomb, Nauvoo, Burnside, and Colchester, I was thinking, last night backstage at the LeClaire Park bandshell, that we may have been under the only patch of blue sky in the Midwest! It was trying to rain as people queued up three blocks back from the entry gates, snaking down the length of the old Freight House. But, come on now--when thousands of God-fearing people gather to praise Him, amazing things happen. Faith is such a powerful thing that it didn't even rain when a band sang "Let the Rain Pour Down"!

My little role in all this grandeur was to testify on the subject of bell-ringing.
You know, "the red kettles." Chuck and I have been doing that as our Christmastime offering for some years now. And so let me tell you what I said:

The Salvation Army is one of the most recognized names in the world. After Katrina, when we went down to the Gulf Coast to report (for Channel 8) on what Quad Citians and Quincians were doing to help, we found the Salvation Army everywhere--in downtown New Orleans, for instance, where almost NO one else was allowed to be. They served up 25,000 meals a day during those early weeks.

But the Salvation Army also does tremendous good right here at home, and your dollars and cents dropped into those red kettles at the holidays make up more than a THIRD of the local Army's operating budget.

Now, it may not be the most tempting thing in the world to volunteer to stand in 20-below weather (rarely) and stay in one spot ringing a bell: "Ding-ding, ding-ding."

But you can be as anonymous--or as attention-getting--as you choose. You can pull your hood around your face and just stand there and ring. Or, conversely, you can sing, dance, show off your dog's tricks, play the xylophone: it all brings people to the kettles. (We discovered that people will pay you NOT to sing, ha!)

I drag my husband along, as we women often do. He was pulling back, at first. (Read on.) You can also go with friends, grandkids, your parrot, your church group, your club. The more the merrier!

And as you stand there, the most surprising thing happens. People approach with money for the kettle. They stop in their tracks on a busy day at the holidays or a busy night hustling children into a Christmas concert, and dig in the cold for a bill or some change. They smile. You smile. Pretty soon you are feeling GOOD.

And the BEST part is when a parent, grandparent or other adult encourages a CHILD to give. They come shyly up with a few pennies in their little fists. Sometimes they have to stand on tiptoe to reach the bucket, and sometimes it is a struggle for them to get the coins in the hole; but someone usually helps, and then they will smile or grin and run pell-mell or walk carefully and proudly back to the grownups in their life.

Eventually, whatever your mood or your problems when you arrived, it always happens: even if you're turning numb on the outside, you're ANYTHING BUT on the inside. That car heater feels mighty good when your shift is up, and you know what? SO DO YOU.

(And by the way: I've rung the bell in Florida too. It felt weird to be standing there in the sunshine in shorts manning the Red Kettle, but it led to the same results!)

THANK YOU to each of you who has led a child to the gift of giving!

THANK YOU to each of you who knows that gift: who knows that from small efforts, come mighty results for the benefit of many.

THANK YOU to the people of our generous nation.

THANK YOU to the Salvation Army for its wise and efficient use of those bills and coins.

10,000 people in LeClaire Park last night. If each one would ring a bell for the Salvation Army for ONE HOUR, that would be 10,000 hours; or 250 40-hour weeks; or put another way, FIVE YEARS worth of bell-ringing. Think what we could do with that!

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