In early December, an anonymous donor celebrated her late husband’s memory by dropping her wedding ring and her diamond engagement ring into a Red Kettle at Boston’s North Station.
The donation was accompanied by a note:
“I’ve dropped my wedding ring in your Red Kettle knowing that the money from its sale will buy toys for needy children. In all seasons, my husband was a giver. I especially remember his joy in giving at Christmastime, especially to those in need. To honor his memory, I donate this ring. I’m hoping there’s someone out there who made lots of money this year and will buy the ring for ten times its worth. After all, there’s no price on love or the sentimental value of this ring. But money will help the kids. May everyone have a Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays and Happy New Year!”
An appraisal included with the donation valued the diamond ring at $1,850. Several local media outlets picked up the story. Within hours, The Salvation Army received several meaningful donation offers, all for more than the appraised value. In the end, nine different individuals inquired about the rings, including one call from Tennessee.
Less than a week after the donation was made public, a second widow, who also wished to remain anonymous, offered the generous sum of $21,000, with the expressed intention of seeing the priceless gifts placed once again in the hands of their original owner. Salvation Army leaders made no promises, but said they would do what they could to locate the original ring donor and connect her to the follow-on benefactor.
In a private meeting on December 22, the spirit of Christmas giving came full circle. The wedding band and engagement ring were returned. The two women were introduced, in a private meeting attended by Captain Armida and Lieutenant Michael Harper, Corps Officers of The Salvation Army in Cambridge.
When she learned of the gift to The Salvation Army though a media story, the ring donor was overwhelmed. That the generous woman wanted to return the rings was almost too much for her to take in.
After praying and agonizing over whether to identify herself, the ring donor came forward to Captain Armida Harper. Early in the Red Kettle Campaign, she had asked Harper, whom she sees regularly on her morning commute at North Station how the annual campaign was going. When the response came that collections were down, she considered what she might do to help. That’s when the idea came to donate her rings.
She ultimately decided that, in order to honor the generosity of the stranger, she needed to make herself known.
The two women learned that they have much in common. Both of them volunteered in the past to ring the bell at the iconic red kettle.
“You’ve made my Christmas,” said the $21,000-donor.
“You’ve made mine,” replied the ring donor, “and you’ve made Christmas for all these kids.”
As the donors got to know each other, many tears were shed and hugs exchanged. “I really had no idea it would turn into this,” continued the ring donor. “I couldn’t imagine.”
“See what you started?” she said to the ring donor when they met. The widows, formerly strangers connected by generosity, agreed that the holiday season can be hard. The joy of the season has returned to both.
Lt. Michael Harper described the reunion. “I have chills. Both of these women are heroes to me, to all of us. I count it a privilege to have witnessed everything that’s occurred today. It is the true meaning of Christmas.”
Harper had originally raised the question of whether the rings were given out of joy or out of pain and sorrow. He got his answer when the two women met.
“I gave the rings out of joy because I have made peace with my husband’s passing,” said the ring donor, “and I have such respect for what The Salvation Army does to help people in need.”
Many people were inspired by the story of the ring donation, which went viral. In all, fifteen separate donations of jewelry were made to Salvation Army corps and service units during the Red Kettle Campaign. Proceeds from the sale of the items will support The Salvation Army in the communities in which they were donated.