It’s that time of year again. All across the country, kind-hearted citizens are taking to store fronts, malls, and sidewalks everywhere, bells in hand, ringing out the call for people to donate to the Salvation Army. You see them everywhere. Many of us, myself included, have actually volunteered for this miserable duty, braving the elements while people walk by pretending not to notice that you are ringing a damn bell in their faces.
As we move toward a cashless society, though, how much benefit does this really offer the Salvation Army? I know when I go shopping, it is with debit card in hand to avoid the messy wad of bills and leaden weight of change that clutter my pockets. Having worked retail my entire adult life, I am not susceptible to the tricks modern stores employ to keep the customer shopping. I get what I want and get the hell out. And, like so many other shoppers nowadays, I don’t carry any cash to offer the kind-hearted, bell-ringing popsicles by the front door. So, in this age of credit and personal isolation, how can the Salvation Army keep with the times and raise enough money to fight its war on poverty?
Yep, once you think about it, the solution couldn’t be simpler. Instead of an elderly lady standing outside freezing her blue-haired ass off, why not put a six-foot-six, 250-pound convicted felon by the front door? Who knows how to ask for money and get results better than someone good enough at it to earn a prison sentence? Sure, you might have to chain them to the concrete pylons to keep them from running off with the cash, but with a little supervision, convicts can help repay their debt to society by collecting money from that same society. When faced by such a character, staring you down and ringing that bell in your face, are you going to tell him no?
As a matter of fact, I did recently encounter a bell-ringing chap of just this sort. I have no idea if he had ever served time in an orange jumpsuit, but when I approached the door and he asked, “You wanna give some money?” I forked over every last bill in my wallet. Furthermore, I got cash back when I checked out at the register and forked that over on my way out. You never know when a guy is going to remember your license plate and you also never know when a guy is getting out on parole.
I think, as concerned citizens, we should all approach the Salvation Army with this win-win idea. They will surely increase their operating revenue, the bell-ringing felons will be able to help their fellow man and have something to do besides trade cigarettes for chewing gum, and we will be able to satisfy our consciences while avoiding the fund-raising tasks ourselves.
If more people in Washington thought this way, imagine how great this world would be.