Thursday, February 09, 2006

American Express

Since my experiences in high school marketing clubs, I have been frequently intrigued (and often disheartening) by the reflection of society in the media. A commercial currently airing is just another disheartening peek into some true to life situations.

Diane was a born shopper...So the add goes: tracking the obsessive shopping/style habits of a little girl through adulthood. Finally, there she is, with two adorable twins in a stroller, and of course, she is shopping. At the comment of a passerby remarking how cute the twins are, Diane responds with "Aren't they? I have a pair in lime green too!", as she looks lovingly at her shoes.

Okay, I laughed the first time I saw this add too. I don't want to be a "downer" about everything, but let's look a moment at what this is portraying:
"stuff" comes first in Diane's life. What is there in life without shopping? But she can't help it...that is just how she is, right? What do you put first in your life? What brings joy to your life? Do you justify the priorities you make because that's "just the way you are?"

Then think of those kids. I know they are fictional, but like I said, advertising is a major reflection of actual society. There they are...sitting like queens in the best stroller money could buy, with undoubtedly the cutest clothes...and board out of their minds. Babies don't care about the "Bentley" Peg Pergo strollers we buy them. Nor do they care if they look like they were torn out of a fashion magazine page. No, they would be just as happy with mis-matched hand-me-downs while riding in a Graco "fiat" bought at goodwill.

But be careful, for babies grow into children. It may be harmless to buy the expensive clothes and nicest strollers while they are infants, but watch out for the kids to come. They are taking note of everything that you hold important. With you as their guides, they will hold those things to be important as well. You may be able to smile and converse pleasantly with the mother at church who doesn't put large amounts of value on clothes and other things, but children seem to have an upfront honesty. If you raise your children to value possessions, then the kids who don't have those possessions will undoubtedly be looked down upon as invaluable. Isn't it a natural assumption to make, after all?

Now don't think that only the rich make this mistake. Our family is nowhere near wealthy, but this pride is fought in our house every day. It is so easy to find cheap fashionable kids clothes at used stores, and I love to dress my kids in cute things (with photography as a hobby, I find myself always dressing them for the "photo"). However, the realization hit me about 6 months ago that if I keep this up, that is what my kids will see as important. The thought of my kids with that pride disgusts me. Perhaps that is because it is a reflection of my own sin in my children: a terrifying thought!

Things have only as much importance as we give them. There is no evil in looking nice or having nice things, just as long as the "things" aren't valued. Hold with an open hand the financial blessings you have, but clench with an iron fist the hearts of your children. Teach them that the value is in the human soul not the outer dress. Then they will be comfortable around the richest societies or the poorest communities for they will understand that the soul holds the value. As Rudyard Kipling says,
If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue,
Or walk with kings--nor loose the common touch,...
Yours is the earth and everything that's in it,
And, which is more, you'll be a man, my son!"

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