UPDATE: Here’s the bag:
I was walking out of the grocery store, Wegman’s (yes, I’m happy to name and shame), the other day when I noticed a display of company branded reusable bags. I glanced over and stopped in my tracks. Were they serious with this bullshit? The bag proudly proclaimed: “Never think about yourself. Always think of others.” That’s some potentially deadly thinking right there. Never think about yourself? How are you supposed to help others if you fail to think about yourself? Unfortunately I didn’t think to take a picture of the bag. I will next week if it’s still there.
Does Wegman’s truly want us to never think about ourselves? So…what do I discard in my thinking? My hunger? My fatigue? My lack of funds? This statement suggests that by thinking about ourselves at all we’re being selfish and that’s terribly, horribly bad. And before anybody gets all huffy and accuses me of being a self-serving narcissist. No, I’m not saying never think of others. “Never think about others” is most emphatically NOT the opposite of saying that “never think about yourself” is a bad idea. None of this is a zero-sum game.
Okay…clears throat. Steps up on soapbox…lemme ‘splain…
You HAVE TO think about yourself. If you wish to take care of others, taking care of yourself first is the most important thing you can do! How the hell do you expect to take care of others, think about the welfare of others, if you are physically, financially, and emotionally drained? Because physically, financially, and emotionally drained is where you wind up when you never think about yourself. Physically, financially, and emotionally drained leads to, oh, I dunno, physical and mental health problems maybe? Homelessness perhaps? Then you become the one accepting charity rather than giving it. If we follow the Wegman’s advice we’ll all wind up broken in every way.
<steps down to lower level soapbox>
The idea that a grocery store presumes to tell me that I must never think about myself and only think about others is appalling. Grocery shopping does not involve military combat (at least most of the time. I am not able to comment on the uses of shopping carts as battering rams at this point). We are not in a life-or-death situation where laying down our own life for our fellows may become a necessary act. It’s frickin’ grocery shopping…even if I am tempted to use the cart as a battering ram.
This country is the most charitable nation in the world. Our levels of private giving amount to 1.44% of our total GDP. If you don’t believe me you can check for yourself here and here. Despite all of that, we are berated on a regular basis that we need to give more and more to others. Many high schools and colleges require their students put in a certain number of volunteer hours as a graduation requirement. Any idea what this mandatory volunteerism does to the levels of volunteering for the age group 22-35? If you guessed dropped like a rock, you’d be correct. They’re tired of being forced to volunteer and so when it’s no longer a requirement, they stop. Roughly 18.5% of 20-30 year olds volunteer. That number jumps to 29% for the over-35 group. By making volunteering a requirement it is now an order, not volunteering. And, contrary to the high school and college administrators, you are not creating some sort of life-long love of volunteering, you’ve created a group of people who will stop when they are no longer forced into it.
What those numbers also tell us is that while the recent college grads are likely tired of volunteering, or they’re trying to raise families, get a good start to their career, other things that take away from time spent volunteering, they tend to pick it back up once they are more stable. We are a volunteering and charitable nation. The most charitable country in the world. We will volunteer. Just stop forcing us to volunteer. Please.
So why do we get berated all the damn time about making sure we donate, volunteer, give time, think about…whatever? Yes, charities, by their very nature must almost continually ask for donations and help. But why is a company like Wegman’s telling us that we must “never think about ourselves” and “always think about others”?
I’m going to guess that whichever marketing genius came up with the bag that I saw and whichever VP gave the okay to make it, are thinking that they are showing that Wegman’s is doing its part to contribute to all that’s good and bright and light in the world. Instead, they come off as creepy and very authoritarian.
When volunteering becomes required, either as a high school graduation requirement or via guilt from a supermarket that chooses to admonish its customers, it ceases to be “volunteer” work. Volunteering means that you decide, and act based on your own decision, not because you were told to do something. If you do something because you were told to or were guilted into saying yes, you have stopped volunteering and are simply following orders. That’s when I call it mandatory volunteerism.
Volunteering and helping others should come from a place of peace and desire to help others. Not because you are afraid you won’t graduate or feel guilty or pressured. And if you never think about yourself, eventually you will be in no shape to volunteer for anything. Please do think about yourself. Make sure you are healthy both physically and mentally. That way you can give your all to whatever cause you choose.