While Teaching My Kids About Generosity, I Learned Something

Don’t get me wrong. I like to shop for my children. It’s easy for me to lip read them when they repeatedly say, ‘Please, please, pleeeeeeeeeeaasse.” And I love to lip read the words, “Ah, thanks, Mom.”

As we left the store, a Salvation Army kettle ringer stood outside the store’s exit. I wondered if I had any cash left to give. Upon inspection, I found a few wadded up dollar bills remaining in my purse.

The bell ringer stood shivering from the crisp November wind. Her tight smile and tired eyes while she guarded her red pot struck me as familiar. She reminded me of a remarkable woman I had written about years ago for my hometown newspaper. The lady had run a soup kitchen in the back of a small downtown building in a rural Oklahoma town. She’d asked me to help serve a lunch crowd while I interviewed her because of a shortage of workers.

“The lines are always long,” she’d also informed me, “and the donations are always few.”

As the lady stirred carrots, stewed tomatoes and beef broth into a giant simmering pot, she shared some kitchen secrets.

“The pot’s always best with a little fat in it,” she said. “When there aren’t enough ingredients, add some meat fat to make it taste good.”

She’d pointed at the rings of oil floating in the top of her reddish soup. ‘That’s what you look for. Folks come through here need that fat in their diet to survive the cold.”

That was 18 years ago, long before I became Lipreading Mom or even began to lose my hearing. Back when I rarely had much money for shopping. The only reason I had cash on me that day was for gas money. It was Christmas Eve, and I’d planned to drive several hours to see family after the soup kitchen stint.

I’d waited for the soup kitchen lady to leave the room for a minute before dropping a bill inside her donation basket. I’ll never forget hearing her announce to everyone in the line when she returned, “Look at this! Someone donated. Would you look at this?”

Standing in the cold with the Salvation Army worker ringing her bell, I turned to my two sons and young daughter.

“Here you go,” I said, handing each of them a dollar. “For the nice lady’s pot.”

One by one, my kids dropped their folded dollars into the kettle. I felt like shouting to anyone who could hear, “Keep adding those dollars! The pot’s always best with a little fat in it.”

(U.S. readers: Please visit the Salvation Army or American Red Cross for ways that you can help others now and during this season.)


10 thoughts on “While Teaching My Kids About Generosity, I Learned Something

  1. There is a small, petty part of me that does not want to give to charity when we are barely making ends meet ourselves. However, I am then reminded about how MUCH I have in comparison to some who have so little! May I never be stingy about parting with those last couple of wadded up dollars in the bottom of my own pocketbook!

  2. I used to work for the Salvation Army. I can tell you that they work very, very hard at making every penny count. The pay for their workers is, frankly, lousy, but those who work for the Army are a very dedicated lot. Truth to tell, if I could have gotten health insurance and made a tiny bit more money, I might still be working for the Army today and I’m not even a Christian. I truly believe in the mission of the Army and the “Heart to God, Hand to man” believe resonates in my heart. I am sorry to say that where I live there isn’t much of a presence of the Salvation Army. I remember handing out Thanksgiving, Easter, and Christmas baskets at the Emergency Shelter where I worked. We made sure people had warm clothing, a roof over their head and food in their bellies. It was the best job I ever had and I remember the people I worked with (many of whom are now dead) with a great deal of warmth.

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