Some things we take for granted: agencies like the Internal Revenue Service, entertainers like Bill Cosby, and truisms such as “Christians rarely do much for the down-and-out.”

A critical look at that last item reminds us that we also take for granted the work of the Salvation Army. As soon as the pre-Christmas shopping season arrives, bell-ringers with bright red kettles seem to sprout at every major intersection.

Your quarters in those red kettles pay for thousands of Christmas baskets that bring holiday cheer to the gray existence of the nation’s poor—who do not take the Army for granted. (Factoid: The first such baskets consisted of 150 plum puddings baked in 1867 by Catherine Booth, the wife of the Army’s founder, General William Booth.)

Writer Verne Becker also took the Army and its ministry for granted. But shortly before we asked him to tell CT’s readers what happens to the quarters they drop in the kettle, he and his wife moved from the ’burbs to the center of Chicago. There they hoped to enjoy the city’s abundance of good restaurants and art galleries. But as they discovered that their new neighborhood included one of the nation’s oldest inner-city ministries, they came to know the faces of the poor.

You can read Verne’s account of a day of bell-ringing—and of the work of the Salvation Army—beginning on p. 18. We hope that you, like us, will no longer take that organization for granted.

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