Source: Lake Geneva Regional News

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Red kettles teach lesson in human nature

by Jade Bolack

December 19, 2013

The Salvation Army’s red kettles may be a familiar part of the landscape in December, but the view from behind the red kettle was eye opening.

For an hour on Friday, Dec. 6 and two hours on Saturday, Dec. 7, I rang a bell soliciting donations for The Salvation Army. In those three hours, I thought a lot about volunteering, charities and human nature.

Like most of the volunteers ringing The Salvation Army bells until Christmas, I am not a member of the charity.

I just know that they do good things with the money, and if someone is standing next to the famous red kettles, people are more likely to give.

For the hour I rang the bell on Friday, I was surprised by the result. Maybe because it was so cold and maybe because it was Friday afternoon, people were happy to greet the bell ringers and pushed their coins and dollar bills into the kettle.

For the two hours I rang the bell on Saturday, I was surprised, too, for the opposite reason. Maybe because it was Saturday afternoon and the weekend was already a quarter over, but people were in a rush.

I received a lot of comments both days that it was nice to see “a young person” volunteering for a charity. I’m always surprised when I hear this comment because first, I don’t think I’m that young. I haven’t been called “kiddo” in... months.

Second, I have friends that do this sort of thing all the time. Is my generation really that bad, but my friends skew my opinion of it?

I know my generation is typically horrible at making small talk, horrible at starting conversations with strangers and horrible at making eye contact. I saw all three of those traits while bell ringing.

From all ages.

I saw people in such a hurry, they couldn’t look up from their shopping list when I said hello and instead just waved at me without looking.

I saw people so irritated by their errands, they sighed and huffed if they had to wait behind someone else to get a shopping cart.

Then I saw kids, who were still so excited about everything in life, skipping, pointing, laughing and annoying their parents to death.

For a 5-year-old, a trip to the grocery store is still new and exciting. For a 26-year-old, the trip is old news and boring.

I admit I also get irritated waiting, and I’m sure I wave at people instead of looking at them.

After bell ringing, though, I realize how horrible those actions really are. Does it really save time to wave instead of say hello?

Is it really necessary to get irritated when an elderly woman takes her time grabbing a cart?

Kids act differently toward money, too, probably because they haven’t had to really earn it yet.

To a kid, $1 is just a piece of paper.

To an adult, $1 is potential savings or a tiny part of a tank of gas.

When we grow up, we have bills, student loans, car maintenance and rent. That dollar bill starts to look a lot more important.

So when a kid gives some of his parent’s cash, it’s humbling to see their generosity. It’s even better when it’s from the parent themselves.

Kids may not value money the way adults do, but they can still teach us something about how giving makes us happy.

Money can’t buy happiness, and it’s better to give than receive. Those two sayings go together, especially when thinking about The Salvation Army’s red kettle campaign.

While I know everyone can’t empty his or her pockets and wallet when passing each red kettle, Christmas is a good time to evaluate how money affects us.

Wealth can’t buy you good friends, close family or generosity. But being generous with what you have can bring you good friends and keep your family close.

I am not a financial adviser, and I don’t make millions. But I know that being rich is a state of mind.

Jade Bolack is a reporter for the Lake Geneva Regional News.