About 10 years ago a lawyer friend of mine called and asked if I would “volunteer” to stand next to the entrance of the courthouse and ring one of those Salvation Army bells. He told me that the Peoria County Bar Association had agreed to raise money for the Salvation Army by sponsoring bell-ringers at the courthouse.
It didn’t take me very long to respond to my friend’s request – probably only about a half of a second. Of course, my answer was no. There was no way I was going to stand out in the cold and be an irritant to people walking into the courthouse.
You need to understand one thing about my friend. He was a door-to-door cookware salesman in Chicago prior to going to law school. Not only that, but during the time he was selling, he was the top salesman for the entire region (which covered several states).
Do you know what top salesmen have in common? They are immune to rejection. In fact, I think they thrive on rejection (contrary to the rest of the human race). To them, the word “no” is an “opportunity” to use their skills to beat the prospect into submission.
To make a long story short, he wore me down. I’m not sure exactly how he did it, but he finally got a “yes” out of me. (If he wasn’t my friend, I probably would have hung up on him shortly after he refused to take no for an answer.)
Two weeks after I said yes, I was standing outside the entrance of the courthouse in below-zero weather, angry with myself for letting my friend talk me into ringing that stupid bell.
To make matters worse, almost everyone who walked by me acted the same way I act when I walk by a bell-ringer. They refused to even look at me. It was as if I was invisible to everyone.
It didn’t take me very long to figure out a way to become “visible” to some of the people who were ignoring me. I decided that I was going to verbally harass every lawyer that I knew who tried to act like they didn’t see me. I became determined to make them at least acknowledge my presence.
Every time I recognized a lawyer who was walking into the courthouse, I asked a question like:
• “Hey Joe, you’re in the giving mood today aren’t you?”
• “Hey Jane, you look like you’re in a generous mood today, how about helping out some people who are less fortunate than you are?”
• “Hey Bob, everyone knows you’re the wealthiest lawyer in town, are you willing to share a little bit your wealth with some people who are in need?”
• “Hey Jim, if I’m willing to stand out here in the cold for two hours ringing this stupid bell, are you willing to at least give a few cents to help out the Salvation Army?”
It worked. Nine out of ten of the lawyers dropped money in the bucket. They couldn’t ignore me. I wouldn’t let them.
That year, for the rest of the Christmas season, I dropped money in the bucket every time I walked by a bell-ringer.
Can you guess what happened the following year (during the next Christmas season)? I reverted back to my old ways of ignoring the bell-ringers, treating them as if they didn’t exist.
I have a question for you. Do you drop money in the Salvation Army kettle when you walk past a bell-ringer? If not, why not? Don’t tell me it’s because you can’t afford it, because I know you have the ability to at least give something.
Let’s say you walk past 50 Salvation Army bell-ringers this Christmas season and you drop 25¢ in the bucket each time. That’s a total of $12.50 for the entire Christmas season. If you’re not doing so well financially, you can drop 10¢ in the bucket each time and you’ll end up giving $5.00 for the entire season.
Lack of money is not the reason most of us don’t contribute. So what’s the real reason we walk by those bell-ringers and act like we don’t see them? I think it has to do with our pride. We’re not going to let anyone tell us what to do by standing in our way and irritating us by a ringing bell.
So the obvious question is: How else is the Salvation Army supposed to solicit funds from us? If they send us emails, we’ll immediately delete them. If they send us letters in the mail, we’ll throw them in the garbage without reading them. If they call us on the telephone to ask for help, we’ll tell them to never call again. If they place an ad in the newspaper or on the Internet, we’ll ignore it.
We stand by silently while the federal, state, and city governments confiscate our money through taxation to throw at whatever cause that will get the politicians reelected; yet, we defiantly refuse to acknowledge the volunteer who is standing out in the cold trying to raise funds for a cause worth supporting.
Last week I stopped at Walgreens to buy something and when I walked past the bell-ringer to go into the store, the thought occurred to me: “If I can afford to drive to this store and buy what I need, I can certainly afford to drop a few coins in that bucket.” So on the way out, as I was dropping some change into the bucket, I asked the young lady who was ringing the bell how she was doing. Here’s what she said: “I’m not feeling very good today. I keep getting really hot like I have a fever and then I get chills. I’m not feeling very well.” I told her that she should go home and rest so she can get better. She responded, “Yea, you’re probably right. Maybe I should do that.”
As I was driving away, the lady was still standing next to the entrance of the store, ringing the bell as people walked by and acted like they didn’t see her. It was at that moment that I decided I was going to drop some money into every Salvation Army kettle that I see this Christmas season, even if it’s only a penny (including the kettles that are sitting on the counters next to the cash registers).
I’m challenging you to do the same this Christmas season. It’s time we all started acting more like the Christians we were called to be by doing more to help people who are truly in need.
Can you spare 25¢ the next time you walk by a bell-ringer to go into a store?