I grew up in a very conservative family. We were taught that to accept things from others was a sign of weakness. We could make it on our own, thank you very much. We were “financially modest” by any standard. We were proud. And that’s just plain wrong. But that didn’t keep mom for accepting hand-me-downs from other families that we got to wear. If someone offered me an ice cream cone, for example, I was supposed to thank them for their generosity but decline their offer. How crazy is that? I really wanted the ice cream cone! But our upbringing required us to refuse the generosity of others.
With that background it should come as no surprise that I ended up making some bad decisions because I thought I should always decline the kind acts of others. One instance might explain this a bit better.
My Uncle Walt invited us over to his home one afternoon. All eight of us trooped over to his home and were escorted to their basement. Sprawled across a huge table was an amazing Lionel model train set. He showed us how awesome it was by starting a train around the track, switching it to different tracks, stopping, reversing the direction of the train, dumping a load of Lincoln Logs, blowing smoke from the tiny smokestacks, even blowing a train whistle remotely from the control panel. This train set had a dozen cars, three engines, lots of track, an eight-by-eight-foot table to put it all on, scenery, tunnels, bridges, even smoke drops to drip into the smokestacks. It put our single engine, two-car, oval track to shame.
Uncle Walt let us take turns running the trains around the track, tooting the train whistle, simply having a blast. After all six kids had their turns, I figured it was time for us to go back home. But he started talking about how his children were all grown and didn’t play with their train set any more. Then he dropped the bomb on us. He offered to give us the whole set if we would agree to play with it.
This was where my upbringing kicked me in the pants. My parents were standing right there. I assumed we were supposed to thank Uncle Walt for his kindness but that we had a train set of our own that we were quite happy with. I didn’t want to disappoint my parents by breaking the code of refusal, so I spoke for all us kids. Being the middle child I was the one who had to do the hard stuff and did exactly what I thought I was supposed to do. “Thanks, Uncle Walt, but we have a train set at home already.”
My dad stepped in, thanked Uncle Walt, and contradicted me, saying that we would be very grateful to accept his gift. I was confused, but happy. We took boxes and boxes of stuff home and erected that beautiful Lionel train set in our own basement. We spent hundreds of hours playing with it. It became the backbone of fun for those rainy days when we couldn’t go outside. All six kids had a lifetime of fun with it. In fact, that train has gone on to other families to be enjoyed as well.
Just because something is offered at no cost doesn’t decrease its value. Nor does it mean we should politely refuse the gift. I have learned that accepting a gift is gracious and adds value to both the giver and the receiver. There are comparisons to make between free gifts and free publications.
Oyster Pointer is free to everyone in the community. In the pages of this award-winning newspaper is incredible value, a sense of community and the backbone of commerce. Because it is free adds to its value. Don’t be like me as a kid. Accept the gift, enjoy it, read each issue, be grateful for the offering and enrich your life. When you are done with it, pass it along to others to be enjoyed as well.
Uncle Walt is gone but the lesson I learned from him about generosity and kindness resonates with me each time I get to read a free community publication. I hope it does with you too as you enjoy Oyster Pointer.
Douglas Fry is executive director of the Southeastern Advertising Publishers Association, the non-profit regional trade association which represents free circulation publishers in 12 southeastern states. Fry can be reached at 931-223-5708 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.