Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Gifts That Cost Me Nothing

I opened my email this morning to find a "newsletter" from a weight loss company. They were announcing a "new" way to help others. You simply lose weight with them and when you lose, a donation will be made for you to feed others that don't have a fat problem--they have a hunger problem.

This article was not the first time that I have seen this technique used to garner consumers. I have seen ads for eating out for the homeless, going to ballgames as a way of clothing people, buying products that give rebates for a cause, and using websites that make donations. These are good marketing techniques. They use our good desires to give to help their businesses.

These marketing plans are capitalizing on a move across our land to "give back" or "pay it forward." We want to do something for those that do not have as much as we do. We watch as Bill Gates, Bill Clinton, Oprah, and others give and receive kudos and publicity. We see needs--hurricanes in New Orleans, wars in the Congo and Georgia, earthquakes in Myanmar and China, and the list goes on. We want to do something.

I have always believed that the "doing" of something is important, but the character behind the doing is as important. In other words, you can do the right thing for the wrong reason and still be wrong. And you can do the wrong thing for the right reason and still be wrong. Your motivation and your deed must match up. Motivation to give and to share with others out of the goodness of your life is a wonderful thing. The choice of the gift is equally important.

So I am questioning this how of giving. I won't go into the facts and figures of the corporate gifts. I know that marketing those pink tops off the yogurt got that company many sales and only a few cents to the foundation that they were "supporting." I'm not out to belittle these companies. It is just good business for them. I am questioning why we are so susceptible to this marketing scheme. I believe it is because we want to give, but we want it to cost us nothing. We would like to feel good about ourselves for the gift, but we don't want to do without anything. We want to stop feeling guilty about our extravagant lifestyle (even if it is all on credit cards), but we really don't have enough left to truly give.

I am reminded of a story of a king that was very proud of all that he had. In fact he had all of his army counted so that he could know exactly how many men he had. Soon afterward his country experienced several plagues. Now the king loved his people and sought to have the plagues leave them. So he went to a place to make sacrifices to his God. He offered to pay for the property on which to offer the sacrifice as well as the sacrifice. The man that owned the property felt very privileged to have the king come to him for this. He offered to give him everything he needed. But the king replied, " No, I insist on paying full price.
I will not take what is yours or make a sacrifice that costs me nothing."

The king knew that it was just not the gift that counted, but the source of the gift.

I am going to examine my heart, and I hope that you examine yours, next time I am tempted to give without "paying the price." I am going to examine my thought processes that tell me I must have it all (and right now) and that I can do good without having to feel its effect on me. I am going to think about what right I have to feel good about giving if it costs me nothing.