Christmas is three weeks away. Donations are coming in to the Union Leader Santa Fund, which is a bit of good news among the usual dreary and depressing headlines.
I like to read the donation list in the paper. It’s better than Christmas cards. I see friends’ names and, my favorite, someone named “Anonymous.’’
I got a further taste of the spirit of the season by taking a turn at bell-ringing at a Salvation Army kettle last week.
Folks from the Union Leader have been doing this for as long as I can remember, which is not quite as long as the newspaper has had the Santa Fund. It began in 1960, which is so long ago that even I was a kid when Editor Hugh O’Neil and Publisher William Loeb came up with the idea.
“Branding’’ is a buzzword in business. A good brand can be very valuable. I think that locally there are no two better brands than the Salvation Army and the Union Leader Santa Fund.
People know there is nothing fancy about them. No big overhead. The Army does the Lord’s work day and night, 365 a year; and the Santa Fund raises money that is put to good use at Christmas, when people of little means are especially in need of a bit of help.
The Army’s little red kettles are a pleasant reminder to a lot of people that Christmas is about giving as well as receiving. A colleague and I stood outside a Mall of New Hampshire store for an hour and I would guess 90 percent of the people who walked by made it a point to put something in the kettle.
We rang our little bells, of course; but we could have been using a fidget spinner or a nine iron or just standing there. The people see the kettle and donate and we say “thank you’’ and “Merry Christmas’’ and off they go.
I had one donor thank US, which made me feel a little guilty because I was getting an hour off work on a bright, if brisk, weekday afternoon.
The kettle duty was especially helpful to get me into the Christmas spirit this year. The nine iron and the rest of the golf clubs should have been packed away weeks ago but at least once a week, the golf gods have pushed up the temperature and tempted me again.
Write to Joe McQuaid at Publisher@unionleader.com or on Twitter at @deucecrew.