Army kettle overflows with blessings

Wonderful and miraculous events occur at Salvation Army kettles at Christmas. We hope the following stories will be a blessing to all…

The Christmas that I was a bell-ringer for The Salvation Army began as a chilly, blustery day that turned into a bitterly cold night. I had been opening doors for people and dutifully ringing my bell all afternoon, and I was getting tired and hungry. We were short of help that night, so everyone just kept on working.

It was close enough to Christmas that people had begun to sour on the hysterical gaiety of the stores in the mall, and I got more than a few surly looks. It made me feel sad that folks couldn’t seem to focus on the joy of the occasion.

My pot was pretty empty by dusk and even my smile felt a bit forced, when I saw something that I will never forget. Outside of the main entrance (where I was working), there were a number of handicapped parking spots; they were all full, of course… most of them occupied by healthy people who “just dashed in for a minute.”

I noticed a pickup truck with a disabled veteran plate cruise past and then head for the back of the lot before the driver could find a place to park. I watched a man on crutches get out, and begin to work himself towards the entrance where I stood.

The parking lot was covered in patches of black ice and the wind gusted so strongly I was afraid the poor man would be knocked sprawling.

He finally made it to the door, which I held open for him; he crutched his way past me and said: “I’ll catch you on the way out.” Now, I had heard THAT a lot, and watched those same people leave by another door just to avoid me, but I didn’t blame this man at all. He had been forced to walk almost two city blocks because other folks hadn’t had enough decency to park in the able-bodied areas. I knew that in some terrible conflict, this man had lost the use of his legs in defense of his country…and its people. The same people who wouldn’t even give him a break on a parking place.

It made me feel sad and ashamed.

In a few minutes, a group of rowdy teenagers wearing gang colors came out and started hassling me, saying things like; “What would you do if I grabbed that pot?” and “Hey lady! Are you willing to get cut for that little bit of change?” They scared me because there were five or six of them and they kept circling around me like hungry wolves. It was just past dark and for the moment there was no one else in sight, and I was becoming more frightened. They seemed to enjoy my fear and grew bolder still.

I don’t know what would have happened if my knight on shining crutches had not appeared. The scarred veteran stepped into the midst of the bunch and stood looking at them. One by one they dropped their eyes, unable to stand up to the intensity of his gaze; then, they turned as one and just walked away.

I was shaken to say the least, and thanked my rescuer repeatedly. He said, “I wouldn’t let those punks hassle a lady, or anyone else!” I asked him if he had been afraid; there were a lot of them and they were all big and healthy…he was just one rather slight man with a pair of useless legs.

He said, “No ma’am, I would do anything for ‘Sally’ ” (The Salvation Army). He went on to tell me that he had spent a spent a long time in various hospitals after being discharged from the military, and when he finally recovered enough physically and emotionally to return to life, he found that life had moved on without him. His wife had sold their house, just prior to divorcing him and leaving the state; he was not able to go back to the type of physical work he had done before joining the service; he had no place to go and no one to care about him.

He lived on the street for a while, and then one day went into a Salvation Army store, to look for a coat. He began talking with a man who worked there, and next thing he knew, he was in a clean room with a comfortable bed and good hot food in his belly. He went to sleep smiling that night because he had a job to go to the next day, doing odd jobs and helping out in the store.

The Salvation Army first showed him Christ-like love, and then Christian love in action. They even helped him get into a training program to learn a new skill, and kept him housed and fed during that time. He is now a successful man with his own business, a pretty wife and two strong sons, and he gives most of the credit to his “adopted family” the Salvation Army.

He slipped three crisp hundred-dollar bills into my pot, and smiling brilliantly, repeated, “I’d do anything for Sally.” I watched in wonder as he began the trek back to his pickup. Coming out of my trance, I yelled, “God bless you brother!” Without turning, he called back, “Thank-you ma’am, he already has.”

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