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What Does Charity Mean to You?

What do you do when you pass a Salvation Army ringer and kettle?

It started a couple of weeks ago. I was busy, distracted. My shopping had nothing to do with Christmas. In fact, I think I needed paper towels. But when I walked out of the grocery store, there she stood-wrapped in a scarf, wearing boots, a puffy coat and ringing that bell. Oh. And she had on a big smile.

Something in me made me stop. It was like a switch clicked on. I reached into my wallet and pulled out a dollar bill. She was smiling and ringing and saying thank you. I reached toward the kettle and stuffed my dollar in. (The slits in that thing make it impossible to anonymously fling in your money. You're forced to get a little close.) I glanced up at this smiling, clanging lady. She didn't miss a beat. Just said, "Thank you. Merry Christmas."

 And what exactly was that something that made me give?

This has been a financially challenging year. The contract I was certain would get renewed didn't. The unemployment also was not guaranteed. Some odd jobs here and there and help from family...well, let's just say pickin's were slim. And it wasn't like I had resources to be, well, giving out anything. But I did, without thinking. It was that something.

I've been wondering, kind of taking an informal survey of family, friends and acquaintances, and asking them, "What do you do when you walk by a Salvation Army ringer"?

Most of the responses were benevolent. One father said he makes it a point to have his son put money in the kettle. A single, working mom goes for a bill but if there aren't singles, pulls out some change and puts that in. An executive neice of mine, who reminded me it wasn't long ago when she was without resources, puts in anywhere from $2-$5. Other folks at least greet the ringer and smile.

And me? What was that something that stopped me in my tracks? That was my neighbors checking in on me when I was sick bringing me a plate and some fancy expectorant. It was a guy friend of mine who sends pictures of his cats that make me laugh when nothingis funny. It was the busy single working mom who couldn't come over but made it a point to call just in case I was feeling sorry for myself. It was my landlady giving me some extra time to pay the rent. It was a neighbor couple of mine who agreed to buy my ill-afforded tv so I could make my car payment. (They helped me move too.) My family put a couple of bucks in my checking account. A buddy of mine showed me various assistance programs to explore. I was a kettle. But somebody else was doing the ringing.

That's why I stopped. I barely had it, but I had it. And if that's the criterion, so be it. I gave because I had been given to. That's what charity means to me.

Looking for charities in the Johns Creek/North Fulton area? Here are some organizations that accept donations of money, items and/or time:

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