Not Unless I Have To

I've talked about the Good Samaritan story many times in talks with advertisers and advertising majors because of its comprehensive application. Imagining yourself, in your specific career, playing a specific role in this famous story, can be invigorating. This morning over at, I wrote about it and some of my inadequacies as a servant.

One of my favorite adult-life maxims comes from the end of the parable of the Good Samaritan, where Jesus answers the expert in the law and says, “Go and do likewise.” I know he didn’t (and doesn’t) mean, “Go and become a paramedic,” or, “Go and become an inn keeper so that you can lodge infirmed patients.” He simply meant for me to go and do what must be done for folks whose needs I can meet.

To be fair, I do okay. I take out the neighbor’s trash because his disfigurement requires 20 minutes just to get to the alley. I donate to people. And at every chance given to communicate theology on the importance of work in the here and now Kingdom of God, I give it with conviction.

In other words, I get Go and do likewise. Unfortunately, it's a short list and I’m afraid that most of my going and doing is nice-guy personality - not a result of what Jesus said.  

Read "Not Unless I Have To" here. is a site full of conversations about work, life, and God.


Cereal Fetish

Photo credit: Mebajason
Met a woman from Germany on Saturday. She grew up in former communist East Germany and we talked about decisions. I thought it was only American anti-consumerist critics like me who harped about the cereal aisle, but it was one of the first examples she mentioned. (Not that she hasn't adjusted just fine to this American life, having two kids and breakfast cravings of her own.)

Despite my complaints, I keep that particular aisle in business. I like the variety. I like cereal and I like having a greater chance of finding something on sale that my family enjoys.

And I like watching advertisers show off their creativity and strategy, sparring as they do shelves high and 75 remarkable feet wide on a veritable playing field of color and shape, crispness claims, offers of mailable-linkable-retrievable Free Stuff, sugar content, box and oat cluster size, fiber facts, artificial and natural ingredients, fruit bits or chunks or flavors, and Box Top for Education coupons. It's all part of a magnificent display of competition where the weaker brands die and the talented designers move their wares to more prominent positions.

I've shopped long enough to narrow the field; to do my own selection (natural, of course, as I don't care much for artificial), which makes the whole stimulation factor less distracting. In fact, I skip entire swathes of products because I've determined previously that I have no use for them. So on one hand I'm embarrassed that we need so many choices, but on the other, thrilled to have them. Beating the system and navigating the clutter alleviate my guilt enough to keep me from protesting.  

Maybe Tatiana was better off. Communist oppression is no viable option, but humans appreciate products in scarcity more than in abundance. We adapt just fine to having less and we show more gratitude when this is our lot. I know it from wilderness excursions where you carry the minimum on your back, and from being poor as a child. One of the most memorable experiences as a college freshmen was being walked into the cafeteria and shown where to get trays, drinks and any of thirty types of cereal. I asked our campus guide if we were allowed to have more than one bowl.

"Of course," he said. He looked surprised.

We had a half-bowl limit growing up. I spent the first semester eating cereal three meals a day (with salads and sides, of course!), sometimes 4-5 bowls in twenty-four hours.

Obviously, having abundance at my fingertips isn't necessarily healthy. Signs of decay (tooth and otherwise) appear everywhere self-discipline wanes and I too often end up in the display case like the mayor who gorged to a drunken stupor in the film, Chocolat. I need help. We all do.

Can cereal advertisers do anything about it? Should they? Would limitations or discouragement mutate our shopping freedoms into some sort of captivity? These are tough questions for me. Until I find answers, and as long as They send notable coupons, I'll probably keep enjoying the game.        


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