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Saturday, April 26, 2014
"Are You Serious?" Awards - Volume XV: Sticky Fingers/Entitlement Edition
I often joke with friends that Wisconsin's state motto should be changed from "FORWARD" to "ALL YOU CAN EAT". We LOVE free stuff in this state, or even the impression of getting something for nothing. I can tell you from decades of experience that even at charity auctions, where items are supposed to be bid-up and over-payed for, Wisconsinites still like to see if they can get a deal on an item.
Given that fact, this week's award winner shouldn't come as a shock.
This past week, our organization had a booth at a special needs event in Wisconsin. I "woman-ed" the booth for much of the expo. As I have seen so many times before at such events I have exhibited at or attended as a participant, there were certain attendees who went from booth to booth collecting any and all freebies they could find to bring home. A gentleman in the booth next to me represented a very small organization, selling items that young adults with disabilities had created. A neophyte to such an event, he was not familiar with the type of "grazing" I have witnessed over the decades. Much to his surprise, 2 adorable little girls walked by his booth, grabbed 2 of his items for sale, tucked them in their bags, and walked away. As he pointed this out to me in shock, I asked him if he had also noticed the woman talking directly to him who had taken one of his logo-embroidered hats and tucked it into her bag. Since he hadn't, his shock only multiplied. Ultimately, he shrugged it off, but I think this is an issue worth confronting.
So, this week's award winner is every one of us who has "sticky fingers" or who gets a bit greedy at exhibit halls.
Are you SERIOUS?!
Let me be clear. When exhibitors bring items for display, we do want to share them with people at our booths. For example, I was MORE than happy to have children take some of our coloring books, so I would not have to lug them back to the office. They were there for children to enjoy and to share our contact information. However, it is when attendees become gluttonous or operate with an attitude of entitlement that expo behavior becomes problematic. Some examples of this would be the conference attendee who grabs fists-full of pens, bracelets, stress balls or goodies of any kind; conference attendees who are repeat visitors to a booth, thinking those manning the booth don't notice that they're "double-dipping"; or conference attendees who take books, merchandise or other items on display for sale without paying when the vendor does not notice.
It is sad to have to point out such gaps in etiquette, but pervasive bad behavior makes it necessary. Having a family member who faces a challenge with special needs does NOT entitle us to rob or mistreat others. Besides, no amount of free tschotschkes will ever compensate for sorrows or difficulties. It behooves us to shine the light of Jesus wherever we go, showing others what a difference the Lord makes in our lives. We have a unique platform to do so. When we get sticky fingers or act entitled at conferences, we give the world a completely false perception of what it's like living with special needs, and we certainly fail at building good will for our community.