Monday, November 21, 2011

The Bells

--Bluebells, Challock Wood,

We cherish too, the Poppy red

That grows on fields where valor led,

It seems to signal to the skies

That blood of heroes never dies

--Moina Michael

Hear the tolling of the bells -

Iron Bells!

What a world of solemn thought

Their monody compels!
--The Bells
, Edgar Allen Poe

And now abideth faith, hope, charity,

these three; but the greatest

of these is charity
--1 Corinthians 13:13

This a minor observation, but needing to return to a store twice today reminded me of how oblivious or robotic people can be.

The Salvation Army bell-ringers are out with their little red metal pots seeking change outside of grocers. It's not much to place your spare change in the pot, and it is for a good cause. But I witnessed at least 40 people walk past and give nothing. Some made eye contact with the bell-ringer, many had children with them, some were sure to look the other way.

On my second exit from the store almost everyone in my cohort smiled at her as they walked passed, but not one offered anything. As she forced a smile back, it seemed she was thinking the same thing as I. These were often well-dressed business people, so money cannot have been an issue.

When I was child, my mother made it clear what the money was going to and always gave me change for the bucket and taught me that it was bad form not to give something. She said it was a rather thankless job, so the least we could do was smile and give something.
It was a lesson in inclusivity, no matter how small.

But nobody was taking this moment today to teach her kids. It reminded me of the many small humanities from my childhood which I do not see today, like little red poppies for the lapel on Memorial Day. It was just understood -- it seemed like everyone bought and wore one on that day, and it was another teaching point for me, the idea that some things were to be remembered and consecrated.

Unholy consumer pilgrimages like "Black Friday" were shunned.
Like every kid, I was greedy for the latest greatest toy, but was taught that I'd become bored with it within an hour, and to stick with amusements that would go the distance like art and books. It really wasn't so bad, and I don't recall the profusion of gaudy and meaningless stuff that surrounds most kids today.

So back to the people blithely passing the bell-ringers: Do they think the people with the Santa caps are just part of the
mise-en-scene, and their life is a big festivity devoted to their own distraction? Do they resent the intrusion into their lives? Do they think anything?

This is the Deep South, and southerners do tend to have a scarcity mentality. But some of the people exiting that store were surely parishioners of some church, and isn't charity part of the lesson?

I understand the new watered-down biblical versions which they probably follow in the Baptist church have replaced "charity" with "love", but surely they are not thinking solely of love incarnate, like Edward in Twilight . . . or, are they?

Labels: , ,


Anonymous Carl said...

Lisa, I think Jim's post title previous to this one sums it up.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011 at 2:14:00 AM GMT-5  
Anonymous Labrys said...

I pass the Salvation Army bell ringers by because I give charitably every month of my life and not small change.
And because I don't LIKE the message the Salvation Army promotes regarding gay and lesbian folks and that around here, they are a bit less obvious about their rather stringently fundamentalism.

So yeah, I pass them by, and without a twinge of guilt.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011 at 11:29:00 AM GMT-5  
Blogger Lisa said...

It's a great way to teach children some compassion. I stand by it.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011 at 6:36:00 PM GMT-5  
Blogger FDChief said...

Funny. My maternal grandfather was a very high official in the Sally Ann; "national commissioner", the head preacher right below the "General" that runs the whole magilla.

He used to love to tell the story about standing outside the Waldorf Astoria in NYC (in uniform, of course) during WW2 having just met with the heads of the other "service" outfits like the USO and the Red Cross. We was holding his bus-driver hat upside down at his waist, ready to put it on, and some guy going inside dropped a quarter in it.

He dropped it in the collection box, natch.

Anyway, I can't say I'm surprised. "Charity begins at home" is the term - and often ends there. We - both we as people and as a culture - tend to be pretty clutchfisted about people we don't know. And when we're feeling the pinch ourselves - as a lot of people are this year - that makes us even less generous.

I do pitch my change in the kettles as a momento mori to my gaffer. But I also understand Labrys unease at kicking in her cash to an outfit she feels doesn't speak for her.

On a broader plane, it'd be nice if we didn't get shilled just during this time of year. I've always been uncomfortable with the way we seem to feel like we've "done our bit" when we get all wenceslausy between Halloween and New Year's. The poor are there in August as well as December - where's the charity-ringers then?

Tuesday, November 22, 2011 at 7:00:00 PM GMT-5  
Blogger Lisa said...


Now that you mention it, I do remember your writing of your grandfather's position within the organization.

I am with you in that the needy are always there. My surprise is to see people turning a bit meaner even about that x-mas spirit thing. I wonder that all of our little e-toys are not effectively helping us carve out mental villes which simply do not admit of other's needs.

We must remember that loser Newt was applauded for saying of the OWS protesters, bathe and get a job. This is Mr. Constitutional professor, bad-mouthing the exercise of free speech. Of course politicians say what they need -- that is the job descriptor.

Still, charity-mindedness seems low on the totem-pole today.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011 at 9:12:00 PM GMT-5  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The Salvation Army is second on my personal list of charities (Shriners being at the top of the list). The Salvation Army helps lots of "undeserving" poor and I'm in favor of that.

Old drunks and the children of irresponsible or dissolute parents need a warm place to sleep, a hot meal, and a winter coat. The Salvation Army shows up when the home of a poor or working class family burns and they do their bit with furniture, clothes, pots and pans, and even some cash if possible. They do NOT expect repayment.

I throw money in their pots and they get a Christmas check every year. I like those charities that help folks rather than hire massive numbers of administrators, managers, and staffs and devote most of their money to "education" efforts.

Jay in N.C.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011 at 11:45:00 PM GMT-5  
Anonymous tw said...

I agree with Jay. I was brought up in the SA. Our town had two SA Corps. One English and one Swedish. I used to have to go to the 11 o'clock sunday service in Swedish.

One of the things I like about contributing to the SA is that you know that the majority of your donation is going to get to the people who need it, not siphoned off by some bureaucracy. Also, whenever there's a disaster they're the first ones there with aid be it hot coffee for firemen or shelter for the needy.

I must say I'm not familiar with Labrys' complaint but then I haven't been active in organized religion for yrs now. My one complaint with them is that they patted me on the back and sent me off to an illegal war of aggression and occupation with a "we'll pray for you" and like most religions today are still doing it.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011 at 1:14:00 PM GMT-5  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I drop some cash in SA too, for a night a long time ago my wife and I were helped by them. At that time they segregated the sexes, even married couples. I don't know if they do that anymore or if it was something that local spot did for some reason.

As for charity in general, I do not donate over the phone or by mail, no matter the cause.

Right now, times are tight for us, but we do what we can.

Happy and Friendly Wishes for all here at RAW.


Wednesday, November 23, 2011 at 9:05:00 PM GMT-5  

Post a Comment

Links to this post:

Create a Link

<< Home