It’s that time of year again and for those of us who still go to the malls rather than exclusively shop on line for Christmas gifts we often see the suspended red buckets and hear the tinkling bell by the folks who brave the weather while encouraging us to drop in our loose change to help the needy during this yearly fundraising effort. Since we have heard of some charitable organizations who have high overheard costs we may wonder if the money we put in the buckets actually ends up going to those less fortunate. The answer for this organization is a resounding YES! (To check this out further – or any other ‘fact’ or rumor regarding a wealth of topics go to Snopes.com as your fact-checker. It’s a great information equalizer!
The Salvation Army sponsors the Kettle Campaign which starts in November and ends on Christmas Eve. It is their main income stream and raises 70% of the yearly dollars needed to support food distribution, meal programs, shelters, emergency assistance and even Christmas toys for the underprivileged children in our communities. Nearly all of the bell ringers are volunteers. The charity does occasionally hire people in some areas of the country where there is a scarcity of volunteers. Typically these folks are from homeless shelters who are down on their luck. They may have few marketable skills but have a desire to work and help themselves. Look into their eyes and you will see people who have dealt with immeasurable struggles in life but are trying. To further clarify the process the red donation buckets are only opened and the collection counted by an employee when it is returned back to the main center in the evening. Knowing this information should help us feel more confident when deciding whether to reach into our pockets and dig a bit deeper. This organization is the real deal and does amazing things for people in need. What it doesn’t do well is advertise. Why? Because advertising costs money! (Maybe there is something to be said of charitable organizations who can afford to advertise continually!) Let’s help the Salvation Army by sharing this information about them with others.
The topic of charitable donations is a challenging one. In a recent study by Slovic published by ‘Frontiers in Psychology’ the data indicated that we are psychologically motivated (akin to being mentally wired) to help only one person at a time and that our compassion seems to fade when even two or more people are involved! Following this logic, getting people to give to an anonymous bell ringer becomes even more of a challenge. Maybe a ‘Thank you for your effort’ and a smile from us to them is in order as we drop our donations into their small red buckets.
The irony of Slovic’s finding is that other research has repeatedly shown that the giver – the compassionate person in life – is ultimately a happier individual compared to the person who just wants more for themselves. This latter group are easily recognized …they quickly dismiss any charitable donation with the statement, ‘They’re all alike….the money doesn’t really go to the needy etc. etc.’ The rest of us see right through their statements as simply excuses to hold on tightly to what they have – rather like Ebenezer Scrooge before he saw the light! A person with even a modicum of caring for others finds reasons to give rather than reasons to turn away. Their humanity proceeds them as they smile their way into tomorrow. We can recognize them a mile away as they offer a hand up to others.
The next time we hear the sound of the ringing bell let’s personalize it by thinking of someone we know or even someone we have seen on the street that looked like they needed a good hot meal (Tiny Tim comes to mind) and visualize our donation going to them. The Universe has a way of putting our intent into action. Our coins or dollars will flow more freely and we’ll be happier from the inside out as the miracle of Christmas – the sharing and caring – magnifies.
Have a great few days!