Something’s gotta give

“If we don’t fly, then the terrorists have won.”

“If we don’t spend, then the terrorists have won.”

If, then. If, then. We’ve been laden with these uncertainties a lot since Bin Laden. And now, conditional clauses threaten the livelihood of Santa Claus, too.

Our economy runs on two engines: external consumption and internal combustion. If people quit shopping, then…inventories pile up, company debts can’t be paid, production slows, purchase orders dry up, profits sink, stock prices plummet, jobs are cut and salaries are frozen. The downward cycle means less money will be available for consumers to remedy the situation.

Our solution? Call to arms. Sound the trumpets. Open the wallets. Hit the stores. Spend boldly. Buy. Buy. Buy.

Now, there’s a certain economic logic to that that no preacher should undersell by over-piousness. Spending is one way of dealing with fear.

But consider the difference between the last rush you got from buying something and from giving something. Which lasted longer? Which antidote to fear worked better? Which enlarged the soul as well as the body?

Lakewood’s own Jimmy Nadlini has been training in New York City this fall. By 5:45 on Sunday mornings, he can be found serving breakfast as a local homeless shelter volunteer. One recent Sunday, he also made 100 peanut butter sandwiches to-go. A few hours later, he sat in a church pew for worship and noticed a woman one bench over from him. As she fumbled through her purse, he saw a baggie fall out containing one of the very sandwiches he had made that morning. Jimmy felt immediately the spiritual communion symbolized weekly by the church’s bread and wine, and on this occasion by bread and peanut butter.

You’ll hear calls this holiday season from department stores and malls and boutiques and car dealerships and probably from the White House, too: “Don’t let the terrorists win – spend, America, spend.” You’ll hear from ministers and rabbis and imams also, from charity organizations and human services agencies, too: “Don’t let the terrorists win – give, America, give.”

Which call will you answer?


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