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I’m here to serve

 For most of my working days, I generally wear a casual Salvation Army shirt with a red shield on it, but when the occasion calls for something more formal, I wear official uniform. It was one of those days recently, and I was in white shirt, tie and epaulettes.


On the way to a function, I was passing a shopping centre and remembered I had to pick up something for home and also something for the office; I was running early, so I dropped in for a few moments.


As I walked through the shopping centre, an elderly lady waved at me, smiled, and approached me. I assumed she must be a Salvo from somewhere. As she approached me, she said, “Could you tell me where the toilets are, please?”


An odd request. Maybe she trusted the Army uniform. I’d just passed the sign for the toilets, so I pointed it out to her.


I continued on my way and stopped at the entry to Kmart because I’d felt my pocket buzz, and I thought I should check my phone in case it was an emergency. It turned out to be nothing urgent, and as I put my phone in my pocket, a man walking into Kmart said to me, “Where’s the toy section?”


This day was getting curiouser and curiouser. I’d been to this store before and knew where it was, so I gestured and said, “Over near the far-right wall.” He thanked me and walked off.


Then the penny dropped: both people thought I was a security guard!


It wasn’t the first time I’d been asked these sorts of questions, as it had happened once or twice in a previous corps appointment. And I also recall walking through an airport in uniform once and being near some pilots who were looking at me oddly – probably trying to identify what airline I was with!


It occurs to me that I could potentially have some fun with this. Red Shield Appeal is coming up; maybe I need to stand near the entry to a shopping centre and say to people entering, “Sorry, new policy – $1 entry fee, please.” It’s only a buck, so I suspect a lot of people wouldn’t care and they’d pay. I wonder how long it would take before a real security guard chased me away.


Or I could put on my Army cap and sunglasses and walk through an airport, tapping a white cane and asking if anyone had seen my Boeing 737. Big thing. Two wings. Painted white, apparently.


Perhaps I could try it to gain free entry to the football. Just walk up to the gate in uniform and say, “Gidday, I’m on duty at the member’s stand today. Do you mind if I just cut through here to save walking around?”


A little more adventurous might be standing outside a hotel, and when a nice car pulls up, I could just open their door and say, “Can I park that for you, sir?” As they threw me the keys, I would say, “Thank you, sir. Have a nice day” and wonder how much an auctioned Ferrari could raise for the corps building fund!


– Major Mal Davies and his wife Major Tracey are the Corps Officers at Adelaide City Salvos


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