A familiar jingle has faded from street corners, doorways and the marketplace. The small hand-bell that beckons to a passer-by before Christmas is now silent as a new-fallen snow.
But beyond the traditional holiday season sound of the Salvation Army red kettles, countless stories ring out with good news all year long. This is only one such tale.
In 1980, the tenement building on the dark side of Salem, Ore., was home to an unkempt and lonely little boy. His single-mom, stressed by poverty, struggled to put food on the table for 8-year-old Raymond, his twin brother and younger siblings. With a water bill to pay, a nightly bath was out of the question.
Nevertheless, on a warm summer day there was a group in their apartment courtyard who wanted to embrace children just like Raymond.
As the joyful music floated through an open bedroom window, the notes reached the ears of the young child. Curious, Raymond went in search of the sound and found a Salvation Army band playing.
While other boys and girls involved themselves at the crafts table, Raymond was mesmerized by the trumpet.
“I wanted to play that instrument,” he reminisced recently about those early years, “and that’s what attracted me first to their children’s programs.”
It was a relationship that continued through the years with food baskets, toys at Christmas and a loving presence at school and sporting events, including his high school graduation.
“Without a father figure in my life, I received emotional, moral and spiritual guidance,” the 40-year old now recalls. “Majors John and Jane Horgen treated me like a son."
Today, Raymond Erickson-King is a man that would make any father proud. As a result of the couple’s faithful mentoring, as well as others at the Salvation Army, he earned his bachelor’s degree and master's in business administration.
“It’s only because of God and the Salvation Army,” Raymond says gratefully, “that I was able to get through those tough years.”
It’s a blessed life that hasn’t been taken for granted — and one he hopes to extend to others. Each day, Salvation Army Capt. Raymond — soon to be a major — joins hands with his wife, Jennifer, as they embrace the poorest at the White Center in west Seattle.
And upon occasion, the sound of Capt. Raymond’s trumpet brings joy to more than one little boy or girl.