On the Corner

Odds and Ends

by Robert Docter – 

Some bits and pieces of life fall together as fragments. We give them special meaning deserving casual attention, but fail to allow them the efficiency of categorization. We place them carefully in old cookie tins or cardboard boxes and lay them on dark shelves in ignored corners to be used at a future date as something special or historical. They have “possible” value in the future—but are seen as almost valueless in the present. They are remnants of past wholes—scraps stashed with other scraps. About them we attach the word “maybe.” Maybe I’ll want this someday—maybe I’ll find a way to use this—maybe I shouldn’t throw this away. They are odds and ends.

I wonder, sometimes, whether society classifies the Army as something for the “odds and ends” box—as something that formerly fit but is now simply a remnant of a by-gone age. Society has often tended to perceive it as “odd.” Only a few outside the movement have any insight into its actual “ends,” or reason for being.

No! This Army hasn’t been stashed in any “odds and ends” box yet. This Army has never and will never be perceived as “valueless.” Neither are we remnants of a by-gone age.

BUT . . .
The group of people who trumpeted attacks on new communities with posters and broadsides—with newspaper articles using words like “besieged”—or “batteries”—or “waging war”—the organization that brought religion to the streets, that advocated for the poor with marches and sit-ins, that picked up drunks on Broadway in horse-drawn hay wagons and gave alcohol recovery its principle metaphor—being “on the wagon”—that organization…has become sedately silent—dignified—or even worse, acceptable.

Somehow, we have turned holiness into something pious rather than claiming acts of mercy as imperatives. Somehow we have raised a few generations who seemed embarrassed by the behavior of their Army elders and have turned “the Sunday morning meeting in the hall” into a formal liturgy in the sanctuary.

It’s not necessarily a compliment for people to feel nostalgic about the Army. If they do—it’s because we’re not telling our story.

This Army is made for the use of massed media—and nowhere—no—where are we using media effectively. We had more radio programs on the airwaves in the 1930’s than are heard now. If William Booth were alive I wonder how many cable television channels we’d own. Why are we leaving this vacuum to the likes of the “hairspray and eyeliner” network—or to the overly political Robertsons or Dobsons? We’ve got a message that is unique to the Army that needs to be told—AND ITS NOT HAPPENING! If we want to be something other than ready for the “odds and ends” box, we should own our own television channel and provide 24 hours of daily programming nationally. Just off the top of my head, we could develop the kind of programming that provides opportunity for discussion of moral issues, examination of relevant social topics, education on a wide range of matters concerning the family, exploration of life choices, providing insight into addiction, presenting news concerning welfare matters, recruiting volunteers, exa
mining the impact of homelessness on communities, probing the addictive nature of gambling—and last but not least, we could provide Bible study and messages stimulating spiritual growth.

How many public relations directors in divisional headquarters cities know the names of the city editors in their town? How many have visited the city rooms in the past few years to plug a story? If the answer is meager—it’s probably worse among officers who handle their own public relations in smaller towns. Getting stories printed in local papers is a function of the quality of the relationship between the story’s writer and the paper’s editor. No relationship—no story.

People who discover us love us. Often they are our very best promoters. Why not tell this story with a louder voice. If we do, no one will be ready to assign us to the odds and ends box.


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