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Tales from a Bell Ringer in North Jersey

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By Robert Skead

It’s true—I’ve been called a “ding a ling” in my past, usually lovingly by my mom. But now I’m proud to be a real ding a ling… well, not the kind you’re thinking, but the kind that rings the bell for the Salvation Army.

Since I was in my 20s, every time I’d see a Salvation Army bell ringer in front of a local store or mall I became enamored with the red kettle and the generous acts of giving displayed by the people who placed their financial offering inside. I also felt a deep appreciation for the Salvation Army staff member or volunteer ringing the bell that cheerfully encouraged others to give.

That’s why when my schedule opened with some free time, I immediately searched the Salvation Army’s website to discover how I could volunteer to be a bell ringer.

My heart leapt when I learned I was accepted and my bell ringing location would be in front of my local ACME grocery store in Midland Park, New Jersey. I felt like I was joining an elite group of men and women – and joining God’s army of difference makers. What a privilege.

It was so much fun. Like anything in life—our experiences are what we make of them. I could just stand there and ring the bell and thank people or I could interact. I chose to interact—asking people their names and having fun with them, and when I saw someone was injured, or had a physical disability, I’ll ask them if I could pray for them (right there on the spot). Like with anything in life, even bell ringing can be turned into ministry if one is intentional.

I discovered senior citizens love to tell you about themselves. And I ensure those men with the veteran ball caps always get thanked for their service. Equally special is seeing neighbors and friends off on their shopping expeditions. I especially enjoyed watching little children fold their parents’ dollars as they stuck them into the cross-shaped slot in the kettle.

Young and old were so generous and cheerful and their eyes light up as they saw the familiar red kettle and heard the ringing bell – and as they answered the call to help the needy with their gift.

You know, one truth rings clear – we always get back more than we give. If you have some free time and would like to be a bell ringer too, contact Scott See, Salvation Army of Paterson, at Scott.See@USE.SalvationArmy.org. Trust me, you won’t regret it. It will make your Christmas season magical.

Want to learn more? Please read the story I crafted (link here). Perhaps God will give you the next big idea that will share His love with a world in need.

Merry Christmas!

Robert Skead is a children’s author and part-time staff member with Athletes in Action. Discover more about his books at www.robertskead.com.