There is a myth that the inspiration for the Christmas song “Silver Bells” came from “the bells used by Santa Clauses and Salvation Army people on New York City street corners.” What is not a myth is Christmas music inspires people to spend enormous amounts of money in late November and in December. Christmas music also inspires people to give money to charity and to contribute to food drives and appeals for toys for less fortunate children. It’s become a cliche to suggest that people should be charitable all year. It is not a cliche to say that people should make responsible and ethical decisions about where to allocate their money.
One of the enduring and questionable symbols of Christmas giving is the Salvation Army kettle. The Salvation Army launched its 125th Annual Christmas Kettle Campaign on November 16, this year with the slogan, “The World Keeps Moving Forward. Why Are so many left behind?” Good question Sally Ann! Here’s another, Why is there evidence, despite its denial, that the Salvation Army continues to discriminate against LGBT members of society?
The Salvation Army is proud to list Loblaw Companies Limited, Walmart Canada, Costco, BC Liquor Stores, LCBO (in Ontario), Canadian Tire, Cadillac Fairview, Metro, Safeway, Save-on-foods, Sobeys among the corporate partners who allow kettles to be placed at their stores each year. While it’s doubtful that shoppers patronize these stores because of the kettle, there is no doubt that if a local community newspapers were to report that one of these corporate partners refused to allow kettles in its stores, that corporation’s sales would drop.
The bells and the kettle are seductive, ubiquitous and insidious. They work on the rationale that people who can afford to fill their shopping carts to the brim can afford to drop some spare change in the kettle. The kettles are designed to allow shoppers to donate effortlessly and absent-mindedly without breaking their stride to the parking lot.
Although thinking before donating takes time and energy, we should start using that time and energy: the Salvation Army kettles, toy and food drives are not the only alternatives to giving. People can
- donate food to a local university or college food bank.
- buy socks and gloves to give to the homeless people you meet in your community.
- pay attention to the people around them; their neighbour may need assistance.
- attend functions where the proceeds go to local non-denominational charities.
- donate surplus clothing to the Canadian Diabetes Clothesline program.
- donate to Supplies for Students programs in your community
- donate to a secular or atheist organization.