Christ is the reason for the season. While I know this is true, there are a few other things that really help anchor the holiday spirit for me. One of these is the Salvation Army Red Kettle campaign. That familiar jingle is as iconic to Christmas as the Packers are to football. But I'm deeply concerned about the Red Kettle Campaign.
WJFW Chanel 12 out of Rhinelander reported on 12/10/18 that contributions are significantly down from historic levels. I suspect this is not unique to northern Wisconsin, and as a business owner I think I know why. It's not about the generosity of people. It's not about foul weather keeping people indoors, at least not in our area. It's been relatively mild so far this winter. It's not about the economy. Record sales are happening everywhere. It's more basic.
These days, who carries cash for shopping? This thought first came to me when shopping in Wausau on Black Friday this year. (Never again!) This was the first time this year I saw a Red Kettle. I reached for my wallet and all I found was plastic. Not even a coin in my pocket. I bet you get the feeling I had. Not deep remorse, but a gentle tug at the part of me that says, "You could do more for others." And there is no easier way to do more for others than to drop something in the Red Kettles.
Today through Christmas Eve, the last time when you will find the Red Kettles in retail stores, I'm making a commitment to carry cash so that every time I encounter a Red Kettle, I can help someone. I am asking you to join me in that commitment. Let's do all we can to fill the Red Kettles, so the Salvation Army can fill stomachs and provide other aid. This is not just a conscience cleansing exercise. Consider the following.
In 1891 Salvation Army Captain Joseph McFee lay awake praying about how he would fulfill a commitment to provide Christmas meals to 1,000 needy people in San Francisco. Borrowing from a tradition started at the ship docks in Liverpool, England, he set out a similar pot at the Oakland Ferry Landing at the foot of Market Street. Beside the pot, he placed a sign that read, "Keep the Pot Boiling." He soon had the money to see that 1,000 needy people were properly fed at Christmas. By 1901, the idea fed 150,000 people in Boston on Christmas Day. Today, the Salvation Army assists more than 4.3 million people world wide during Thanksgiving and Christmas. The Red Kettle Campaign is the oldest fund raiser of it's kind on the planet. There will be about 25,000 Red Kettle Campaign collection pots out this year. Eighty-three percent of every dollar goes to direct care of the needy.
These days, people are hungry for a collective, global move toward love and care of each other. The Red Kettle Campaign is one such opportunity you can take advantage of. When you drop cash in the Kettle you are reaching across all boundaries that can divide. You are symbolically and literally joining with all faith traditions, political positions, economic situations, and social conditions to care for others.
This year, make the commitment to cash, not for shopping, but for giving. Also keep in mind that each year many Red Kettle Campaign locations are lacking volunteers each year. There is no training curve to ringing a bell. Here's the link to volunteer.
Until next time, may the bells keep ringing, and may the Red Kettles be filled to overflowing.
Eric Nei, The Cleaning Guy