One Christmas tradition in the US and Canada is the Salvation Army Christmas Kettle Campaign. Every year, across North America, thousands of kettles are set up to take donations for the Salvation Army, and someone always accompanies the kettle, ringing a bell to draw your attention. By the end of each day, the kettle is stuffed with cash, and everyone goes home happy, a worthy cause supported.
At least that’s how it used to be.
Yesterday I was at the grocery store, standing in line, waiting to invest in my retirement plan (lottery tickets), and saw the Salvation Army guy sitting on an indoor bench, his kettle beside him, the bell is his hand, silent. You see, here, they’re not allowed to ring the bell any more since too many people are grinches and find it annoying.
But what was truly pathetic, was that the kettle, which is transparent so you can see the generosity of others and be guilted into contributing yourself, was empty.
Not even a quarter.
So I opened my wallet and found I had a lone, solitary, five dollar bill. I walked over and put it in the kettle and said Merry Christmas. He just looked at me, saying nothing, perhaps too stunned from someone actually donating.
I got back in line.
That was yesterday.
Today, I had to go to the post office (those are those places that used to be used to mail things and for some reason think they are just as relevant today as they were before email). I got up to the cash and there was a sign that debit/credit was down, and they were accepting cash only.
I opened my wallet, and of course, there was nothing there, because I only ever use cash at my favorite sausage vendor, and he’s gone south for the winter. I try to keep a twenty in there at all times, just in case, but my daughter had asked for fifteen bucks for something, and I had given her the twenty and for change got the fiver I donated yesterday.
So I had to go to the store’s bank machine. I withdrew twenty bucks, it cost me $3.00 at the machine, and I know my bank will nail me with another $1.50 or more because I didn’t use one of their machines.
That means it cost me $4.50 in fees to mail a $2.05 envelope, all because I donated $5.00 to a charity.
But all this got me thinking. We are quickly heading toward a cashless society. I personally almost never use it. In seeing the empty Salvation Army kettle, I have to think it’s not because people no longer support the Salvation Army, but because nobody carries cash around anymore. If they were to have a tap terminal set up with a default of perhaps $5.00, I wouldn’t hesitate to walk over and tap my card and donate. Perhaps it could have a digital readout showing how much that kettle had taken in that day, or over time. I would hope that some bank out there, with their mega-billions in profits, would donate the terminals as a tax write-off.
I think our charities need to evolve and embrace the modern age, or they risk becoming irrelevant, replaced by those that “get it”. And so does the post office, me thinks, but that’s a whole other discussion.
Merry Christmas everyone, and here are the links to donate to the Salvation Army: