"Conversation is but carving --
Give no more to every guest than he is able to digest.
Give him always of the prime -- and but little at a time..."
-- Jonathan Swift
It happens every year -- the protests, the letters to the editor, and the failure of anyone to do anything constructive to stop it. I'm talking about Christmas displays in October, or even September. Everyone objects, but merchants respond with longer seasons than ever, apparently believing that profits increase in proportion to the number of shopping days we harried consumers have available before Christmas.
I can ignore the displays. Except for the supermarket, I don't spend much time in stores anyway. I can also toss out the mail-order catalogs that start arriving around the Fourth of July. But there's one thing I can't ignore, something I'd like to see stopped before every month, every day, and every special event becomes just one year-long, stereotypical day.
I thought of this a few weeks ago when I was paying my bills. I had just written a thank-you check for my Christmas seals when I picked up another request for money.
Easter Seals? But it wasn't even Halloween! Knowing I would receive another request from that charity a few weeks later, I tossed the unseasonal plea in the trash.
But my mind wandered as I remembered another familiar procedure, the requests I've received for money from organizations and charities to which I had previously contributed. There's usually a sentence or two of gratitude followed by a long explanation about why what I gave that time was not enough, and would I, therefore, give an extra donation just now to tide them over until the next fund drive, or simply increase my usual pledge by a substantial amount.
There are schools for this; people get master's degrees in marketing. So, I assume some of this ever-lengthening, never satisfied sales strategy is taught in class. And as our society gets more and more sophisticated, churches and charities are hiring marketing specialists, too -- and becoming more secular in their fund-raising techniques.
I don't have a master's degree in anything, but I do have an uneducated suggestion for settling this unsettling mixture of annoyance and guilt -- the latter because we feel guilty about being annoyed.
In our house when it was someone's birthday, that person got all the gifts. We all had fun, consumed our share of cake, and probably played with the honored guest's new toys. But everyone knew whose special day it was. A few months down the road it would be our turn.
Couldn't we do the same thing with holidays and charitable fund drives? Couldn't we let Halloween blow out with the candles in our pumpkins before advertising special rates on Thanksgiving turkeys? Christmas shopping on our minds in November isn't so bad, but how about not turning on the blinking lights until we're warming up our turkey fricassee? Just think how exciting it would be if we all uncovered our displays and plugged in our lights at the same time. As long as we didn't blow every circuit breaker in town, the spectacle would be a holiday in itself.
Mainly, Easter Seal people: wait until the Lung Association delivers their seals and the Salvation Army counts the change in their kettles before starting your equally worthy fund drive. We don't love them better than you; we just want each of you to have your turn.
Overkill is exactly that -- something that kills our enthusiasm for what we would otherwise welcome and enjoy. They may not teach this in marketing class, but how about holding each holiday and related charity to its own turf and time? Who knows, maybe an appreciative public would buy more and give more if there weren't so many "buy-me's" and "give-me's" out there all at once.
(Barbara Seaborn is a local freelance writer. E-mail comments to email@example.com.)
The Columbia County News-Times ©2013. All Rights Reserved.