You hear them every year; it's the music of Christmas. But the sights and sounds of those Salvation Army bell ringers become even more meaningful when you've been one. My husband and I have been bell ringers for several years and find it to be a special treat during the holiday season.
One year we were scheduled for an evening shift after work. That day had been a particularly stressful one, and it was a cold one, too. I was in no mood to stand outside in the wind and be nice. But barely five minutes into our shift, my mood changed. A young mother struggled with three little children in tow but stopped to put some coins in the bucket. An elderly couple did, too, smiling and wishing us a blessed Christmas.
We were blessed. A very somber-looking young lady passed us by, but when I addressed her, she stopped and we talked a little. I told her I'd keep her concerns in my prayers, and she thanked me as we parted. Though we were acting as good Samaritans, so to speak, we were the ones who were truly ministered to that day.
Jesus told His followers to be His witnesses in Samaria (Acts 1:8). No matter where you live, it's probably safe to assume that your "Samaria" – your community at large — is full of needs: the poor and homeless, military families, sick children, single moms, the elderly, the lonely and forsaken. Hurting people need Christians in their community to reach out and demonstrate the love of Christ.
I was cold, hungry, tired and weary that December evening. Yet by the time I finished serving my community by simply ringing a bell, overseeing a red collection pot and greeting shoppers, I was energized. I was blessed. My time and sacrifice were nothing compared to knowing that I touched a few lives and was a witness of God's love.
Dale and I grew closer as a couple in the midst of serving together. There's something special, even intimate, about serving those in need. It connects you, softens you, slows you down and helps you appreciate all the blessings you have. Here are a few ways to serve your community/"Samaria":
- Work in a soup kitchen, food bank, rescue mission or homeless shelter.
- Volunteer as Salvation Army bell ringers. It can take as little as an hour, but it means a lot.
- Adopt a military family, especially when a spouse is deployed.
- Adopt a college student or foreign exchange student. Have him over for a meal, even if it's just once a month.
- Offer to serve in a premarital or marriage ministry, or start a small group for couples.
- Schedule a regular "date night" to serve together in a local nursing home (singing, doing crafts, teaching a Bible study, etc.), or visit kids in the hospital.
- Participate in the political process (voter registration, polling, etc.).
- Volunteer to help build a Habitat for Humanity home.
- Coach a youth sports together.
- Teach adult literacy or English as a second language (ESL) classes together.
- Adopt a local fire or police station, and take them dessert once a week or month.
Helping families thrive in partnership with you.