Nothing says "holidays" like the Salvation Army red kettle; the unofficial start of the season is the sound of the first bell ringing outside a store. I usually try to put something in the kettle a couple of times each season, but today I put a big bill in the Salvation Army kettle.
Or at least it was a big one to me; the largest I normally carry in my wallet. Nothing like the anonymous donor in this story, who dropped $50,000 (five cashier's checks for $10,000 each) into kettles in Joplin Missouri. Having collected money for various charitable organizations over the years, I know that by far the most common gift is a handful of change or a dollar bill. Anything higher than that is cause for celebration.
However, this Thing almost didn't happen. I started trying to find a kettle last week, but there were none to be found! Although I saw stands for kettles outside a half-dozen stores, there was no bell ringer collecting donations at any of them. It turned into a game. What store could I drive by that might take my money? Tony said he saw one in Columbia, but I wasn't with him.
This morning, Christmas Eve, was my last chance. I went to a grocery store early, but once again I just saw an empty red kettle stand outside the store's door. I came home to drop off the first load, and headed out in a different direction to buy more food for dinner tomorrow.
Once again, I was disappointed to see a red stand with no attendant. On a whim, I drove to a third shopping center. This time, I heard the bell ringing as soon as my car got close to the store! I parked in the (very full) parking lot, walked up to the receptacle, and slipped my bill into the very full kettle. The bell ringer gave me a friendly smile, a genuine thank you and a warm Merry Christmas.