Erin Kelly encourages us to find (and use) the glimmer of realness buried within holiday clichés
Modern coins go “plink” when they drop into a Salvation Army kettle. But gold is a softer metal; it goes “plonk.” And in a Christmas tradition that’s 30 years old this year, the gold coins are once again starting to plonk into the iconic red kettles.
“Plink” and “Plonk” are just the beginning of a soft, sweet symphony of sight and sound that only comes once a year, as they signify the official start of the holiday season. For one Salvation Army volunteer in Bettendorf, Iowa, a single “plonk” made headline news last month.
According to this article posted on NBCNews.com, a gold coin was found, nestled in cardboard, in one of those vintage red kettles. The article also reported that a few days later in Houston, Texas, a similar story unfolded. A one-ounce coin worth nearly $2,000 was dropped into another kettle, this time wrapped inside a one-dollar bill. A note that read, “A child is born, Jesus! Merry Christmas!” came with it.
Although neither donor was named, the article did mention that this is at least the fifteenth consecutive year such an act like this has occurred in The Twin Cities, and the fifth straight year it’s happened in Houston.
Whoever these mystery Kris Kringles are, they took center stage in the best holiday commercial ever in my book. They took core values that every good parent teaches her son or daughter to have–generosity, selflessness, respect, and dignity–and brought the meaning of charity to life.
That’s something no commercial can do, even with all the branding power and airplay behind it, as cheesy as their messages may seem. This is the time of year when millions of people invite a cast of characters into their homes—everyone from an Abominable Snowman with opposable thumbs to talking M&M’s—but just like Santa’s little helpers, they aren’t the only ones working overtime to spread some Christmas cheer.
The Wheelchair Foundation, a global nonprofit organization, gives wheelchairs to any adult or child in need of one but can’t afford it, free of charge. Its mission, “to create awareness of the needs and abilities of people with physical disabilities,” is spreading to all corners of the world, as its website states that an estimated one hundred million children, teens, and adults worldwide are without some form of mobility. The site also states that while some International organizations report a number of still-developing countries contribute six percent to that figure, others pinpoint Afghanistan, Vietnam, and Ethiopia among the countries with the highest disability rates.
At its core, I think this is one of countless charitable organizations that do more than just “give.” It takes an entire demographic of individuals that have long been regarded as second-class citizens—without a voice— and makes them the heart of its foundation. In turn, it gives so many with a physical disability the one thing they dream of—independence.
That’s exactly what Josh Routh, a man with Cerebral Palsy who is an avid supporter of The Wheelchair Foundation and member of its distribution team, was hoping to do when he came onboard. In his profile for the website, Routh personally expresses one of the reasons behind his drive and motivation after successfully reaching the Serrano Glacier in Chile as part of a mission trip:
“…[I wanted] to show people I could do it, to see something I wanted to see in my lifetime. I was sore the next day, but it was a good sore. I had accomplished something.”
Routh has helped deliver more than 1,100 wheelchairs to those in need on behalf of The Wheelchair Foundation—and that was just during a recent trip to South America. According to the site, donations can come from friends, neighbors and anyone willing to take five minutes to fill out the online form.
If anything, Routh’s unwillingness to let an overshadowed population go silent goes to show that if you tap into the true values of any man, woman, or child, you’ll find the things that make them human. It fills you with a sense of warmth that comes from knowing you’ve done some good in some small way–like a Christmas tree bending down to pick up its star.
–AP Photo/David Coates