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The True Spirit of Giving

Akshay Patil

The story you are about to read is true. Only the names have been changed to protect the innocent (me).

I was flipping my way through Penguin when I ran across a two-page advertisement for Roger Lichen clothing in the middle of the magazine. There, I was touchingly told that Roger Lichen’s clothing brand was so heart-wrenched by the tragedy of September 11 that they had already committed 4 million dollars to their own fund to help the victims of misfortune. The advertisement then went on to tell me that if I went and purchased clothing from a Roger Lichen store, 10 percent of my purchase would be donated to support the fund.

What?

Maybe Lichen thought that he would be a true patriot and not only contribute to help the victims of September 11, but also harness America’s philanthropy to give the economy a kick. He’s a great patriot like that. Always keeping our best interests at heart.

Not that I should really pick entirely on Lichen; many companies are also guilty of the oh-so-aggravating trend of advertising their contributions to charity. Great, you gave money, and you’re a better company for it, but why do you then feel the need to shell out the large amount of money it takes to place a two-page ad in one of world’s most popular magazines to tell me about it?

Give that money to charity. My perception of you has actually worsened because I now see your action for exactly what it was, a publicity move. There probably were people within all these companies that honestly were being altruistic when they gave money for these charities. And kudos to them. But more and more often it is painfully obvious that the spirit of giving was not the primary intention of such companies. Lichen’s advertisement was little more than that, an advertisement. A national 10 percent off sale where all the money you saved goes to charity. Does Lichen want us to believe that clothing companies earn less than 10 percent on all the items they sell? That’s a hoot.

Giving is in sorry shape when most money is given for the image of giving as opposed to for the act of giving. Politicians feel obligated to give money to charity otherwise everyone thinks they’re tightwads. High school students do community service not out of the goodness of their heart, but so that they can write a nice large number of community service hours on their college applications to increase their chances to get in. We are in a disgusting state.

Charity is wonderful. I’m glad that at least they get something out of all this, but the whole process is disgusting. When a company gives something to charity, it should be out of the goodness of that company, not as a publicity stunt. Give it and shut it. I don’t want to hear about it. A national tragedy is an event that should give us pause, not a national clothing sale.