Aug. 2 2008. was the 214th day of the year, with 152 to follow. There would be another 94 days until we elect the next President of the United States. In only six days, the Olympics would begin in China (allowing for a two-week reprieve from 24/7 election coverage). And, it was officially the first day to receive an appeal to help some poor unfortunate next Christmas.
I may well be proved wrong, but I think this is the earliest yet appeal to give money out of some presumed "Christmas spirit."
Getting on this mailing list is mostly my own fault. A while back our granddaughters were selling magazine subscriptions for some school project. I just figured it was payback time. At the same age I'd conned my grandparents into buying stuff they didn't want to help my school. Now it was my turn to pony-up. There was one particular magazine I had wanted to read since it was first published by, among others, Billy Graham. I took one year's worth (which was not renewed).
Someone once said that if you want really fascinating mail try filling out a survey giving a personal annual income in excess of $250,000. It is amazing, though, what mail you do get when you subscribe to any particular magazine. A big part of a magazine's income is from selling "fresh leads" to like-minded purveyors. This is probably why a non-liturgical layman would be blessed with a very expensive-to-produce catalog of liturgical ropes and related items. And, why I start getting Christmas appeals on the Second day of August this year of our Lord 2008.
I know something about direct mailing, having once in my sinful youth taken a "direct" part in same. I do try to look at all of it, knowing how much it cost someone I never met to get into my hands. Also, I know it works -- if it didn't work junk mail would die in a week. And, I have every reason to believe this mailing was legitimate: It was endorsed by one of the best known names in American evangelical churches.
But, I wonder: Why exactly are we appealed to in the name of Christmas? If a need, an appeal, a human endeavor is worth doing, is it not just as worth doing in August? Also, most of the approaching onslaught of seasonal petitions will contain some appeal to "so they can have a Christmas." Are we being asked to give dessert to children who have no dinner?
In the end there will be too many appeals, and not all can be mollified. There must be some criteria by which to sort them out. I suggest two things to those who would send (and will receive) the barrage of Seasons Greetings which will now certainly explode:
First, if the only hope of support lay in the spirit of Christmas giving, it may be time to reevaluate the importance of the mission undertaken.
Second, say exactly what you are doing, and give opportunity to decide whether what you are doing is something worth personal involvement. Only then have you earned the right to ask for money.
So, is Aug. 2, the record; or is it just plain too early for "Xmas"?
David L. Lewis is an observer of and sometimes commentator on life who may be reached via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.