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I used to pass the Salvation Army red kettle collection sites and smile, wish the bell ringers a happy holiday and continue on my way.  Theirs was not my religion.  Thirty years ago I lived with my husband and children on a barrier island off the coast of North Carolina when a hurricane made our area its target.  We were ordered to evacuate and were not able to return for a week, due to the foot of sand that had settled on the only highway leading up and down the length of the island.  There had been no power during that time and when we finally got home, food had spoiled and there was no water.  The electricity was still out.  The Salvation Army arrived immediately, feeding everyone and giving out potable water until the basics were restored.  They didn’t proselytize even once and they asked not one question as they handed out the necessities. I am no longer in need — and theirs is still not my religion — but I am reminded of their absolute and simple charity every time I see the bell ringers at this time of year, collecting money for someone who will need help somewhere, at some time.  Now, when I can — I try to do more than just wish them a happy holiday season.

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