Kiwanis Club of St Petersburg

PO Box 12686

St Petersburg, FL 33733

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Unexpected Gifts, Reminders of the Spirit of Christmas


Deb and I stood by our red Salvation Army kettle, idly
ringing our bells, chatting and wishing everyone a
Merry Christmas, like you do when you are a Kiwanis
member volunteer.

We were impressed with the generosity of the
customers at the University Village Publix, a store in an
unabashedly 'mixed' neighborhood. There was the son
and his older father in an obviously tailored suit, who
told us they would contribute on their way out, and true
to their word they did. And a young woman who tossed
in all of her change. And an older woman who looked
liked she didn't have a dollar to spare, but who put it in
the kettle anyway. And then there was the older
gentleman with the stooped shoulders who wasn't
even going into Publix, but came over to us and
opened his wallet. It only had three dollars in it and
they all went into the pot.

As we were congratulating ourselves that the kettle
was so full, it was hard to even get the bills into it, a
man approached and stopped about ten feet away. His
jeans were old and worn, his jacket tattered, he had
the look of a man who hadn't seen a dentist in years
and the tanned leather skin of a sailor or a homeless
person. Casting sidelong glances at each other, Deb
and I expected him to ask us for money.

But he wasn't preparing to ask us for a handout. He
was pulling his wallet from deep in his pocket. He
pulled some bills out and approached the kettle in
almost a bow, reverently. And he said as he pressed
his few bills into the slot, Thank God for the Salvation
Army. They saved my life. I was at the bottom. If it
hadn't been for them I'd be dead now.

Next time we are bell ringing for the Salvation Army,
remember this man and all of those people who gave
when they had nothing to give. We aren't ringing for
our club, we are ringing for people for whom this is
their last and only hope. We ring for salvation, in a very
real, very earthly sense.

And remember the generosity of those who contribute
without checking with their accountants first, who give
from their hearts because they have nothing else.
Remember the gifts from those who know, 'There but
for the grace of God, go I."

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