- Associated Press - Saturday, December 24, 2016

WAYNESBORO, Va. (AP) - Some pound away when ringing the bell, but not Salvation Army’s Sgt. Maj. Darrell Jones.

The tone from his bell rings softer under his guiding hand as he prefers a more quiet approach, letting voice and actions deliver the message.

“I may say Merry Christmas 6,000 times, but I greet them all,” says Jones.

When shoppers arriving approach, he is quick to offer greetings.

Not all give him the chance to strike first, however. Many have come to recognize him at his post and share the warmth by starting the exchange, even calling him by name.

More than a few drop not just coins but dollars into the iconic red kettle.

“They ask me how I am and I say that I’m blessed,” he continues. “And part of the reason I’m blessed is I’m allowed to serve the Lord.”

Although his faith brought him to join the Salvation Army as associate pastor for their Waynesboro Virginia Corps, ringing the bell during the Red Kettle Drive takes his devotion to service and duty to a whole other level.

“He has a love, a mission and a ministry for others,” says Capt. Jason Perdieu, corps officer for the Salvation Army in Waynesboro.

“He rings the bell every day during the Christmas season, starting Black Friday . 10 hours every day,” he continues.

Before his retirement, Jones would even take a few weeks of vacation time each year just to make sure he was able to get out there ringing that bell.

“He’s just a very generous, good, loving man who cares about others,” says Perdieu.

The corps officer feels that even if he could pay Jones, the man would not allow it.

“He does it out of generosity and the goodness of his heart.”

Stationed outside the entrance to Kroger supermarket in downtown Waynesboro, Jones pauses in his bell ringing as a gentleman approaches.

The elder man seems somewhat lost and asks for directions.

Patiently and with bell still in hand, Jones pauses in his ringing to give the gentleman his full attention.

He gestures with bell and fingers both as he points out directions, talking with the man until sure he understood where he was to go next.

“I do this for the glory of God,” says Jones.

He pauses long enough to exchange pleasantries with others arriving to shop, one of whom adds a dollar or two to the red kettle before smiling and continuing on.

“I’ve learned that a lot of people are kind and generous in a cynical world,” the bell ringer says.

“Perhaps if you read all the stories, you might be led to believe that we’re in a very, very evil world,” he continues, “but I’m blessed to live in a nation and a community where generosity is prevalent.”

Jones believes you just need to know where to look to see the true good on Earth.

And time spent ringing the bell offers him the chance to see some of that generosity first hand.

“He (God) commands us to do two things. . To love him,” the gentleman reflects, “and he says in doing that, there is really only one response that counts and that is to love others.”

Jones feels the one thing he can do in this lifetime is to serve and help those around him however possible - a lesson reflected each day.

Accepting and greeting all with like kindness and respect.

“That’s what I’m doing,” he says.

“That’s my motivation, and why I come out here.”

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Information from: The News Leader, https://www.newsleader.com


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