Wednesday, March 08, 2006

What Message Are We Sending?

“Hello, Hello!” sings Bono when my cell phone rings. The chorus of “Vertigo” screams out to let me know that someone is calling. Neil Diamond used to sing “Sweet Caroline” with each ring, but it started to annoy me. My older brother, who owns a courier business, has Willie Nelson singing, “On The Road Again.” Andrew Atkins, an avid turkey hunter, has one of the most original ring tones going. His phone literally gobbles.

Ring tones tell so much about people; it identifies a hidden part of their personality. Whenever I am in a public place and hear “Big Pimpin’”, “Play That Funk Music White Boy”, or “Man, I Feel Like A Woman,” I look around and guess who might reach for his or her phone. It’s never who I would expect. Ring tones offer a brief glimpse into a stranger’s inner-self. When we hear “Jungle Boogie” playing from the purse of a fellow consumer in the checkout line, we might think she looks like a mild-mannered soccer mom. On the inside, she is a party monster.

Consequently, we download ring tones for entertainment, attention, but mostly for the novelty of it all. Some teenagers in the late ‘90s created a way to play music on their cell phones. This little idea led to a multi-billion dollar industry. “Sales of mobile phone ring tones, those tiny song recordings programmed into millions of handsets around the world, jumped 40 percent in the past year to $3.5 billion,” reports the ARC Group, a research organization. It will cost me $2.49 to download a new ring tone on my phone. They tell me that it will “give my phone a personality.” Financially, ring tones are still lagging far behind. ARC mentioned that basic text messaging brought in over $40 billion last year.

The numbers keep going. World Vision reports that 12 million people are going without food in Southern Africa. 3 million people in Pakistan have no home due to the 2005 earthquake. Six months after Hurricane Katrina, the Red Cross is still serving almost 10,000 meals every day.

What if we were identified by our radical generosity instead of the song playing on our cell phone?

So often I hear people commenting on bottom lines. What is the least amount that I should can give away and still be o.k? The Ten Commandments tell the basis tenets for living. Don’t kill; don’t lie; don’t steal; don’t cheat, etc. Many people spend their lives trying to find the loopholes.

Jesus, however, outlined living to the revolutionary maximum. He tells the rich, young ruler to give everything he had to the poor. What is the largest amount that we can possibly give away? Imagine our response to a friend who traded in her vehicle for something cheaper because she sponsored so many children internationally or gave so much to Hurricane Katrina victims?

While living in South Central Los Angeles, I had a friend named Mercedes who was in the sixth grade. Her parents were immigrants, and their family lived in a one-bedroom apartment. She decided to cut her long, beautiful hair to give to Locks of Love. It is a program through the American Cancer Society that uses hair to make wigs for cancer patients. Mercedes took the only thing that was really hers, her hair, and she gave it all away.

World Vision says that it takes about a dollar a day to feed a child. We could have given $40 billion for food last year, but we sent text messages instead. What message does this send to the world and to the children?


Blogger Patrick said...


You are so very right. We live in a society that does not know how to manage their money or how to build the kingdom of God throgh real generousity and love. Thank you for calling this to our attention.

6:44 AM  
Blogger Soozi said...

Caroline - When you commented on my recent post, I forgot to ask the name of your blog, but finally tracked you down. Thanks for posting this along with the reflective comments. We have such a narrow view of how our choices impact the world - even if the choice seems relatively unimportant at the time.

11:11 AM  

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