December 8, 2012

Skip the Salvation Army

Salvation ArmyI was driving home from work yesterday, and I had the windows in my car about half-way down. It has been way too warm for this time of year, and I believe yesterday's daytime high was approximately 75 degrees F. I had the radio tuned to NPR, as I often do. As I stopped at a stoplight, I could clearly hear the unmistakable sound of a hand bell being rung. I was surprised by how loud it was, and I looked around to see where it was coming from. To my surprise, the Salvation Army bell ringer was standing in front of a drug store that had to be at least 300-400 yards from my position. That I could hear it at all with my poor hearing, engine running, surrounded by traffic, and radio on still surprises me. But there it was.

I have been in and out of that particular drug store a number of times, and I found myself wondering how easy it would be to walk past the Salvation Army kettle without feeling a little twinge of guilt. When I was a child accompanying a parent on errands, I was almost always given a few coins to put in the kettle. Of course, we did not know then what we know now about the Salvation Army. We were unaware of the Christian extremist nature of the organization. We did not know that they supported proselytizing and engaged in discriminatory hiring practices. We did not stop to consider their position on LGBT persons.

I decided I would not feel the slightest bit of guilt today for ignoring the bell. In fact, it would be something of a challenge not to inform people I saw putting money in the kettle what they were supporting.