The Woman at the Red Kettle

SA Kettle

The Woman at the Red Kettle

A Christmas Encounter


Jesus met a woman at a Samaritan well who desperately needed salvation. I met a woman at a Salvation Army kettle who desperately needed encouragement.  Unlike Jesus, I didn’t know how desperately. 

Until I smiled.

I entered the Kroger Store on a mission- complete my grocery list. ‘Marcella’ was ringing a bell in the lobby.  I greeted her as I greet everyone, with as pleasant a smile as I can offer. Before the door closed ‘Marcella’ had exclaimed, “You have a beautiful smile.  Thank you so much for sharing it.” That’s when I discovered how thankless this volunteer service must be.  Many people avoid the bell-ringers and tripod-held kettle. They find a donation-free door or slide past the opportunity, using others as a screen.  

For ‘Marcella’ and countless others, Christmas is not a joyful time.  Her son was killed on December 15th, three years ago.  Since his death her Decembers were filled with alcohol and sorrow, each fueling the other.  She decided this year would be different. She chose to ring a bell and meet people. Apparently, that was not as therapeutic as she hoped.  Then she saw a smile, no words spoken, no promise of a donation, just a smile. 

She knew she could quench the old thirst from the store’s supply but today she bought chicken.  My presence confirmed her choice. “You made the right decision.  Keep doing the things that please God. Follow Jesus.” 

She responded, “Kind words and encouragement are always appreciated. And hugs.” Then she smiled.  “My daughter just had a baby boy.  She named him after me, his name is Marcel.”

It was just a smile, an ordinary activity, something we all do.  

Proverbs 15:13 says, “A merry heart makes a cheerful countenance: but by sorrow of the heart the spirit is broken.” We know a joyful spirit improves our own disposition.  What effect will that merry heart have on others?

It was just a smile, an ordinary activity, something we all do.  But for a few minutes last Tuesday, a cheerful countenance brought comfort to a broken and sorrowful spirit. 

 (December 2017)