I decided to do something red on Black Friday so I signed up as a volunteer for the Salvation Army to ring in the season at Boscov’s in Camp Hill. I arrived early and waited. And waited. And waited some more. Then I called Kevin to get the phone number for their office, which I called and quickly discovered that wasn’t going to work (there was no “press zero for an operator” at the end of the recorded messages). I finally got a hold of a warm body at another office and told them there was no bell, and they said to stand out there with the kettle anyway. I’ll be honest, I didn’t want to do it. I signed on to ring the bell, after all, and figured people probably wouldn’t give much without its chiming calling attention to the kettle. I almost went home.
But I hauled the tripod outside and put the board on top. That’s when I saw the contact number on the back, so I called it and left a message. After about fifteen minutes a woman called back and said she doesn’t know why she keeps getting all these calls from Camp Hill. I told her the number was listed on the back and didn’t she work for the Salvation Army? She said no, she lives in Texas! I crossed the number off for her and she was very appreciative. I can only wonder how many other places her number was listed in error!
So I stayed even though I was disappointed at not being able to ring the bell (and actually quite surprised by how disappointed I was). And then people started to give. For the most part I just stood there and smiled (at those who would look at me anyway), thanking folks who gave, wishing them a Merry Christmas. Occasionally one would ask, “Where’s your bell?” I told them they didn’t give me one but if I had a smart phone I’d have downloaded a Salvation Army bell and swung it as if it were the bell (there’s an ap for everything, right?). Every now and then when someone put in some money I’d say, “Ding ding ding ding ding!” and they’d laugh.
At one point a man walked by with a leg brace and then he got into a conversation with someone nearby. I had been texting a friend to see if she wanted to join me and after he walked by thought perhaps I’d missed an opportunity to pray for someone I was supposed to. So I quietly asked God to bring him back if He wanted me to pray for him. After about ten minutes he came back, so I got into a conversation with him and found out he had a fractured knee. I don’t remember if I asked him if I could pray for him or exactly how I said it, but a fleeting look of surprise and then…something else…went across his face and he said “No” and walked off. I felt bad about that. An hour or so later he came back out again and I had a brief opportunity to talk to him again, at which point I apologized if I’d somehow put him on the spot. He said I hadn’t, and that he didn’t have a problem with my asking, that he just had issues with people trying to apostasize him (I think he meant proselytize). He said something about not believing in prayer, at which point I told him I’d actually seen people get healed when they were prayed for. His response was, “That’s for other people.” Methinks that somewhere in this man’s past he had some very negative experiences with Christians :(
But there were bright moments, too, like the guy who put some money in the kettle and looked at me and said, “You have a big heart!” Then there was the canine rescue group in the foyer selling hot dogs and things, and around lunchtime a gentleman came out and asked if he could get me anything. I said I’d take a hot dog and a water and reached for my wallet, and he said no, it was on him. There were quite a few people who thanked me for doing what I was doing, which was basically just standing there smiling and being cheerful, lol. I guess the world needs more smilers.
By the end of my shift my feet were telling me four hours on concrete was too much. I tucked the kettle away and went inside and when I came back out a few minutes later the next shift had arrived and guess what? They had brought with them red aprons and bells! That’s when I found out there was supposed to have been a volunteer packet with those things waiting for me when I arrived. Guess it fell through the cracks.
I did manage to snag a couple of good Black Friday deals, which is nice. A penny saved is a penny earned! And I know of some red kettles which could use more pennies :)