This message has been so consistent and all-consuming, that holidays from the most pedantic (President’s Days) to the most frivolous (Halloween) to the once most holy (Easter) have become little more than consumer-fests. And technology has taken this all over the top. Forget store catalogs and paper sales circulars; retailers begin their constant assault of sales promos in October and they don’t stop until the holiday clearance racks have been emptied in mid-January. My email inbox overflows with them, as does my phone, which delivers no fewer than three texts a day with “special” sales codes and “exclusive” deals. There is no avoiding it, or the mark it leaves on you whether in the time it takes to view and delete items, or the I’ve-gotta-have-it desire to not miss a grand shopping opportunity. For better or worse, the retailers approach works!
So, I got to thinking, what if we were able to duplicate their very successful strategies in the areas of our lives that truly need improvement? Those areas that wouldn’t just benefit us individually, but collectively, as communities and as a nation? Here are a few ideas that quickly came to mind:
- Education: What if all private schools from nursery through college offered a buy-one-get-one-free deal so that if you pay full price for one child to attend, the next child goes for nothing? You’d get four diplomas for the price of two, six for the price of three and so on. It would encourage family unity and institutional loyalty, and it would enable more families to educate multiple children without breaking the bank.
- Volunteerism: The point of volunteering is, of course, to give of your time for giving’s sake. But what if we incentivized things like teaching prison inmates to read, leading fun activities at eldercare centers, or maintaining community gardens and parks? What if for every 20 hours a month you spent donating your time and talents to the betterment of your community you received an income tax rebate or a post-graduate tuition discount or a gift card for a free checkup that you could use yourself or re-gift to someone who has no healthcare insurance?
- Health: Ever watch The Biggest Loser? It’s incredibly inspiring to witness the morbidly obese overcome years (in some cases, lifetimes) of poor eating and exercise choices and towering self-doubt in a 13-week television season. But let’s be clear about their motivation: Cold, hard cash. One of the greatest cripplers of our economy are our nation’s healthcare costs and they keep climbing higher, as all that ails us keeps getting worse, even as we live longer. Wouldn’t it be cheaper to actually pay people to get healthy? The looming threat of stroke, heart disease, disability and premature death if you don’t get healthy has made little impact. But what if you received a text today guaranteeing you an actual cash prize if you did get healthy? How much would it take for you to make some key changes in your lifestyle? Probably less than you think.
I could go on, but you get the idea. A great education accessible to the masses, stronger, more interactive communities, better physical and emotional health, these are truly the gifts that keep on giving. We just need a better marketing plan—and maybe a few cash incentives—to get the message across. We could start by putting the Thanks back in Thanksgiving. Clearly, we’ve got the giving—and getting at a bargain—part down.