Just a cheery smile…

Faithwriters.com Challenge – 8th December 2016 – Intermediate – As easy as Pie – 3rd Place

For as long as I can remember, I have been involved in Christmas carolling with The Salvation Army around the United Kingdom. As the breeze carries the sound of familiar carols performed by brass band and singers, a small group of collectors receives donations from passers-by. The money collected will help to provide food and toys for struggling families, shelter to homeless people and meals for the lonely.

You’d think collecting would be as easy as pie. Put on a uniform or wear a badge to identify your organisation, hold out a box and take the money. But there is both an art and a science to the process. The science is in the knowledge of regulations which abound, some local and others national. For example, permission must be obtained to sing, play and collect in the desired location, although this could range from a direct personal invitation from the local store to a formal application form via head office. Do you also require permission from the local authority? How many collectors are you allowed? Must you report the proceeds to the council? Can you give out literature? All these questions must be answered before you turn up to play and collect.

And then there is the question of where to position your collectors. Too far from the musicians and you may not be recognised; too close together and they will be competing for the same customers. Does the footfall change during the day, for example at lunchtime? I’ve often changed positions part way through my stint as I noticed people taking different routes through the precinct. All of these considerations are important, as we want to maximise the income to provide the best service to our beneficiaries. This is the art of collecting.

But once all these factors are taken into consideration, only one thing really matters: to make eye contact with at as many people as possible, give a cheery smile and wish them “Happy Christmas”. It takes some perseverance in the UK, where acknowledging strangers is frowned upon. But many people respond cheerfully, and some donate. If someone’s spirits have been lifted, you’ve done some good. And that’s as easy as pie.

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About prophetable

My wife Elizabeth and I were commissioned as Officers (ministers) in The Salvation Army in 1997, and have served in appointments in England and Scotland. Since July 2016 I have been working in The Salvation Army's Scotland Office as combined parliamentary and ecumenical representative.
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