Monday, December 24, 2007

Better to Give than Receive? Shopdropping & Secret Santas


Here's an interesting thing to be on the lookout for: "shopdropping." I'd never heard of it before a short article in this morning's paper, but I can easily imagine the appeal to the right groups:

Otherwise known as reverse shoplifting, shopdropping involves surreptitiously putting things in stores, rather than illegally taking them out, and the motivations vary.

Anti-consumerist artists slip replica products packaged with political messages onto shelves while religious proselytizers insert pamphlets between the pages of gay and lesbian readings at bookstores.

Self-published authors sneak their works into the “new releases” section; personal trainers put their business cards into weight-loss books; and aspiring professional photographers make homemade cards — their Web site address included, of course — and covertly plant them in sta- tionery-store racks.
Just fascinating. Wikipedia apparently considers it a subset of "Culture Jamming."

Secret Santa Lives On

In a better example (value judgment intentionally implied) of the meaning behind the axiom that titles this post, Dave Ramsey, on today's show, interviewed a successor to Larry Stewart as the Secret Santa. In many ways, Stewart's practice, as I understand it, captured at least the initial element (the performance of an unsolicited act of generosity or kindness) of the idea inherent in "Pay It Forward," a concept at least as old as our nation (see Wikipedia's citation of Benjamin Franklin as one originator) and popularized through Catherine Ryan Hyde's novel, published in 2000. The novel was made into a movie by Warner Brothers. The ideas of the novel find continuing promotion through the Pay It Forward Foundation.

Returning to the idea's more seasonal manifestation, the Secret Santa World homepage offers the following explanation of why these particular elves do what they do:
The compassion shared from one spontaneous random act of kindness is elevating, priceless and not easily explained. It is an instant connection between souls that can change a life forever. This is the experience of being a Secret Santa. Being a Secret Santa has blessings beyond words.
If you're interested, you can find more information on the Secret Santa program at

Don't Almost Give

Lastly, if you're not up to donning a Santa suit and can't afford to give away $100 bills to strangers, but you would like to find a way to give something to those in need, during this season and throughout the year, one more organization has been pretty vocal lately, at least in this area, with a series of radio ads that mildly irritate me with their blatant dose of guilt; yet, they did inspire me to visit the website while this post had me on the topic. The Don't Almost Give web site provides a wealth of suggestions for how almost anyone can get involved through volunteering in something of particular interest to them. It's worth a visit.

And while you're there, you can view/hear some of the "Public Service Announcements" and decide for yourself if they're hitting below the belt, or if the end, in this case at least, justifies the means. I'd be interested to hear, through comments on this post, what others think.

Merry Christmas to you all.