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Many soldiers in army of one
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It’s that time of year again, brothers and sisters! Time to whip out the old wallets and give give give!! Spend spend spend! Let Santa give you a good ol’ fingerwaggin’ if you don’t spend what’s left of the U.S. Treasury on your kids! And silly you if you do it!

A lot of folks are totally put off by Christmas anymore, and for good reason of course. Who wants to be reminded that it’s Christmas when you’re dressing up your little ones for Halloween? The commercialism starts way too early anymore. I have to confess, though, I’m kinda sad that we don’t get a great big fat Sears Wish Book anymore. That was the best part of the season during my childhood.

But I do have a story to tell, and as in any good story, there tends to be a dark side.

A recent conversation with a good friend of mine centered on the soup kitchen where he works two days a week. A lot of effort goes in to making this soup kitchen run. It’s a small church that operates it, and at the beginning of the year they were serving about 70 folks at lunchtime. One hour for lunch. Several hours to prepare the meal, serve it, and clean up, but one hour for those who needed a meal to come in and have one. One hour, two times a week.

He told me that it’s primarily funded by the Salvation Army, but most of the local churches kick in with food donations, too. He does a lot of begging when the storehouse gets low, but he says it’s the same people who end up giving all the time, and it’s getting harder on them to do it.

He gives thanks supremely to the efforts of the Salvation Army, without whose generous funding this soup kitchen would not exist.

The last meal they served, he related, served 199 people. That was after Thanksgiving. The staff, of course, had only prepared for 150, as the number of people coming in has grown since the beginning of the year. He had to lock the doors, folks, because they ran out of food. Twenty people did not get lunch that day.

Granted, he adds, there were several people in the hall that day that didn’t belong there. They were simply looking for a free meal, not actually in need of one.

There were children there, too, as usual, some running amok in the hall, and he asked one of the mothers to please keep the children quiet as they were disturbing some of the other “guests,” as it were. She laughed.

“Do you think this is funny?” he asked her.

“Yeah!” she said.

“I hope you think it’s funny when I have to kick your butt outta here!” he replied.

He said the food was running out quickly and they had to resort to cooking rice and opening cans of chili. The latecomers complained.

Drink cups had to go down to a lower size to accommodate the numbers flowing in, one gentleman took his cup up for a refill and complained about the nine ounce size, rather than the usual 11 ounce size. It was explained that they were running out of available drinks for everyone, so they had to bring out the smaller cups.

“Well, this sucks! Next time I’ll bring my own cup!” he geezed.

My friend advised, “Fine! Bring your own drink, too!”

Of course, I sat frozen in my chair as he related this story to me, unbelieving the sheer audacity of people. I knew that if my mother was alive and working in that soup kitchen, she would have clonked those idiots on the head with a big ol’ industrial-sized soup ladle and told them in her best “I’ll-kick-your-tail!” voice, “Get the hell outta heeuh!”

He said there is nothing they can do about the freeloaders, they have to feed whomever comes in to be fed.

This program lasts for one year off the proceeds that the Salvation Army brings in from their bell-ringing programs.

You know them, you see them all over town during the Christmas season. The soup kitchen does not get all the proceeds, naturally, as there are many other causes the Salvation Army steps in to help. And yes, sometimes it is irritating to hear that bell day after day when you’re out shopping, and it is a turnoff.

But knowing what I know now, I would ask that whenever you hear that bell ringing, reach in and throw whatever loose change you have into that pot. Because for all the greedy, there are definitely the needy. And a lot of those are children.

Thank you, God bless you, and have a wonderful Christmas!