I was listening to KQED the other day when the regular programming was interrupted by their fall pledge drive.
As we all know, organizations that rely on donations have to use all kinds of techniques and tricks to persuade us to give them our hard-earned cash. This year at pledge time NPR has made use of their very own Ira Glass, the producer and host of This American Life, to rouse listeners to generous action. In a twist on the coaxing, begging, and mild scolding that is usual in public fundraising, Glass recorded himself calling non-pledging NPR listeners and gently confronting them with their hypocrisy. In one very funny instance a wife had turned in her husband, an avid NPR listener, for never pledging. In another, Glass, noting that a mere one in ten NPR listeners pledge, called a Chicago bookstore and proposed that the store give him nine books free if he purchased a single copy of Snow Falling on Cedars. After the bookstore employee pointed out the absurdity of the suggestion, it became clear that he was a non-pledging NPR listener.
Tears came to my eyes as I listened to these little comic vignettes. I literally laughed, then cried. Glass has a genius for exploring the weirdness, humor, and pathos of everyday life and I knew full well that he was manipulating us to raise money for the pledge drive. I have no problem with that. National Public Radio and its two San Francisco-based affiliates, KQED and KALW deserve the full support of listeners. But the tears surprised me.
I like to think of myself as a good and generous man. And when I fall short, I have learned from many wise people that I must be able to forgive myself, just as I forgive others for their shortcomings. But sometimes forgiveness is not the appropriate response. At that moment I knew I could not just forgive myself—I had to take action.
At HarperOne we are doing a book called Spirit of Service, a daily devotional that offers a full exploration of 365 aspects of service, organized into seven topics, presenting one from each topic every week for 52 weeks. There are over 500 organizations listed in this book. It doesn’t matter if you are conservative or a liberal, where you come from, or what you believe—in this book there is at least one organization, and more likely many, taking on a cause you care about, and they need your help.
Now, the book is a good book, but we are no non-profit. We sell books to make money. However, the organizations listed in Spirit of Service are about something else: they offer us a way to do something to make the world a better place. So I commend the book to you, and more importantly, I commend the spirit of service to you. Service will satisfy a part of your being that money and entertainment cannot.
As for me and my tears: I took action. Like Scrooge on Christmas morning, I woke up and discovered that I hadn’t missed it all—there was still time to enjoy life, to be generous, to give and receive. I did some catching up. You should, too.