Wednesday, May 2, 2007

Spending

Why is it that the people who have the least tend to be the ones taken most advantage of?

Over the past four months two family members and one friend have been scammed out of anywhere from $1,600 to $4,000 dollars. In two of the cases it was from a person calling them on the phone while the other was one friend scamming another. We're not talking about Internet scams or anything. Definitely check out the Better Business Bureau Web site before spending your money anywhere.

Since it's been hitting so close to home, I began thinking seriously about what we spend our money on. Here's what I've come up with.

Our money should go to the places that aren't asking for it.

There are billions and billions of people and organizations asking for our money. In my last examples all of the people scammed were approached by someone asking for a little money to help alleviate a larger debt, or for help by getting some money, then giving it to someone else. In each case someone is asking another person for money.

I have also dealt with people who have been in some tough times and asked directly for some financial help. In almost every case so far any help we provided did not get much of a thank you (not that I ever do it for my own gratitude) and seems to be a part of a bigger pattern.

Then I get to thinking about my consumer spending. You know, buying stuff from stores.

I get ads constantly in my mail box, e-mail and over the phone of people trying to sell me something. Marketing is all about convincing me that I need to buy their product. I have to get a new cell phone every year because the alternative is unthinkable. I need a new car because an older one is less safe or has higher repair bills. I need to get the latest game for my Wii because only owning one game is boring. I should go out to dinner since it's not much more expensive that grocery shopping, and has a much higher entertainment value.

In almost every case I come away with a purchase that feels ok, and few regrets. I'll enjoy it for a time, but 10 years later I won't even remember what it was I purchased.

Then there are the people and organizations that never ask for money (or not overtly). There are the free products you can get online, like Wikipedia, who only ask for a donation if you feel it is warranted. There are people who are hurting financially but will never ask for money, even if it means losing their homes.

Any time I have given to these groups or individuals, my entire life changes (even as most support is given anonymously). I feel like I am making a direct impact in their life and helping them sustain them. I know that God is working through me to help those He loves. Support like that always seems to end favorably and sticks in my mind for years and years. I still remember when we've gone and made lunches for the homeless and handed them out around the city from 20 years ago, I don't remember anything I've purchased from then (Maybe my Apple Newton, but that'd be making me look like a geek, and even that was only 15 years ago).

Maybe if I supported people who didn't ask for it more often, it wouldn't affect me as much. I'm the last to be an example of giving and helping others, I think I can count the number of times on one hand that I've helped someone (physically or monetarily) in the past year.

I can say though, every time I've helped someone else, I've changed. My life has been helped as well. I can feel God's arms grow a little tighter around me.

What's the point of this ridiculously long post? Simply this.

When is the last time you helped someone who didn't ask for it? Why not do it today?

Peace,
+Tom

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