Melanie and I did our stint for the Salvation Army last week, ringing the bells for donations to their red kettle Christmas drive. We had signed up for the last shift of the day, 6-8 pm.
When we first began doing this as part of the All Saints’ Church participation in the annual drive, we were given one of these last-of-the-day shifts, and we expected to be there until 8 pm at our location. Instead, the representative from the Salvation Army who was collecting the kettles showed up 20 minutes or so early. So we got to leave early.
The same thing happened the next year and the next. We began to make sure we were asking for that last slot of the day, figuring we wouldn’t have to stay the full two hours!
This past week, shaking that little bell with one hand, I started glancing at my watch around 7:30. I ran my eye over the parking lot trying to guess where the Salvation Army collection guy might be parked. (We’d spotted him in earlier years, parked and waiting as much as an hour before the end of the shift.) But I couldn’t find him. A couple of likely candidates came and left again as I watched. Ring, ring, ring.
At 7:40 pm the parking lot was thinning out. One more shopper gave a donation. But no collection guy in sight. Ring, ring.
7:45 pm and nothing. Ring.
7:55 pm and nothing. Ring.
So this year we do the whole shift, I thought. (And we had even showed up early to relieve the volunteers who did the late afternoon shift, since we expected we would also be leaving early…) Ring, ring. And then it was 8:01 pm. Still no collection guy.
The Salvation Army leaves instructions on what to do. We carried everything inside the store and turned the bucket over their managers. They would hold it until someone from the SA arrived to collect it. Melanie and I left.
Did I mention this long, full, complete volunteer shift of ours was done the one night it was chilly and drizzly this week?? Ring!
Going home I listen to the Lord preaching in my ear. I hear the words of the Master who is paying his field workers at the end of the day. “Did you not agree for such and such?” Yes, we signed up for two hours. But I didn’t think it was going to be two hours.
We had gotten used to the idea of getting credit for two hours volunteering but only staying for 75% of the time. THAT was what I thought I was signing up for again. What was the hold up this year? That collection guy was way late!
God says how it is but I’ll go ahead and depend on my own experience and my own expectations. Then when my judgment is disappointed and things don’t turn out the way I want, I want God to explain himself. Of course that’s when God goes silent, staring at me, until he finally says something like, “What?” And then there’s more silence while I review my situation.
So before the silence drags out too long, let me just say: ring, ring.