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Ads and Obits
 

For the Week of August 31, 2015
by Rubel Shelly

Americans know advertising. We are bombarded with it every day. But do we really understand it? Ads rarely sell us anything we really need. We know what those things are and put them on our grocery lists, to-do lists, and life agendas. Advertising sells image. It promotes glitz and glamor. Ads make us think we need things most of us could do without and would never miss. Some ads lie.

For example, there is a collective ad being put in the faces of young people every day that tells them they must have lots of money, lots of power, and lots of sex. And everybody will know they are getting all these things if they attend prestigious (and expensive) Skunk Hollow University, get certified for a high-paying job in Such-and-Such lucrative profession, drive head-turning Brand X automobiles, and wear trend-setting clothes from high-end Boutique Shops.

I think we are letting our kids be sold a bill of goods. The world is lying to them! A good life is not indexed by the things those flashy ads promote.

The ads sell fame and celebrity. Perform, serve, achieve – and, if you can’t really do those productive things, take your clothes off, scream in some public place, or make headlines by shooting somebody. Work, earn, accumulate – and, if that seems onerous and hard or looks like it is going to take too long – cut corners, cheat, or take what somebody else worked hard to get. You’re entitled.

Lies! All lies! The ads that have effectively convinced so many of us that these are the things that matter are spawned in Hell.

What really matters is decency, respect for other people, and kindness. What the world actually needs is courage to do right things and the humility to do them for people who can’t pay you back. What people really admire is people who develop and use skills that make life better for others. When all is said and done, even the most crass and vulgar soul in the room wants to find in others are traits such as honesty and generosity, keeping promises and helping strugglers, being a good citizen and an honorable person, faithful mate and loving parent.

How can I know these are the things people really admire – in spite of the ads for so much that is frivolous or vile? It’s because these are the things we put in people’s obituaries and praise in their eulogies. When have you read an obit that said “The thing people admired most about Sue was her good taste in shoes” or “What people loved most about Bob was that he was filthy rich”?

What you want people to say about you at your funeral is “He knew how to encourage people” or “She honored her profession with hard work and integrity we would all do well to imitate” or “He lived by his principles and was a man of genuine character.” It’s the obits and not the ads we should think about more.

Take this one as a case study: He loved his family and took care of them. He worked at something you knew he enjoyed doing. He made the lives of others better just by being part of their experience. Faith in God defined his life, and everybody who knew him respected him. I am a better person for knowing him.

That’s a fitting obituary for my brother who died last week. Harry Shelly knew what mattered, what deserved his attention, and what could help the rest of us. We truly loved and admired him. And we will miss him terribly.



 

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