I had an interesting experience this weekend. My daughter’s Sunday School class has gotten involved with Disney’s Give a Day, Get a Day program. For those of you unfamiliar with the program, the basic idea is that if you volunteer a day of service, you get rewarded with a one-day pass to the Disneyland theme park. The idea is that everyone in the class and their parents would volunteer to do some “tzedakeh” or charitable work and we would all go together to Disney with the kids as a class.
This is hardly the first charitable thing my family has been involved with both on our own or with the Temple, so we were quick to get involved. We ended up working down at an elementary school in East LA working to clean the place up, weeding and resoiling a garden that had been completely overgrown with weeds. It was a couple of hours of not tremendously difficult work that really needed to be done and will hopefully make a school in an area that really needs it a better place for education. And we get a day in Disneyland.
What I found interesting about the experience though, was the conversation I had with a woman who got out of a car loaded down with bumper stickers. You know the kinds I mean — they say things like “Coexist” and “War is unkind to children and other living things” and “Like your rights? Thank a liberal.” She carried her self-righteousness with her like a cloak and it trailed behind her when she walked. Her first words to me while we were waiting on the line for our assignments were “Oh, you must be here to get the free day in Disneyland.”
Not that it was any of her business, but I decided to be nice and admit that yes, that’s why we were there. Her response: “Typical. All these people couldn’t be bothered to come out to help others without some giant corporation figuring out a way to make money off of it.” Someone on line pointed out that Disney was hardly making money off of their charity since they would be giving away the tickets. She pointed out that by getting people into the park, they ensured that they would be spending money on food, drinks, parking, souvenirs and all sorts of other things so Disney was hardly being completely altruistic.
I realized that that this is the kind of galactically stupid misunderstanding of human nature that leads hard-core leftists to misunderstand the nature of capitalism and embrace idiotic ideas like socialism. They somehow believe in something that never has and never will exist — the completely selfless act the utterly other directed person. The bottom line is this — the exchange of commodities isn’t just a facet of life — it is life. There is nothing that anyone ever does with another person that doesn’t have some element of self-interest behind it. The secret to a healthy society is respect for that enlightened self-interest.
The heart of capitalism is the win-win. It’s the exchange of value for value. Why shouldn’t that work in a charitable situation? Why is it so bad for some people to do good by doing well? Disney gets people to the park when the economy is down. A bunch of people get a day of fun for free. And a school in East LA gets the help that it needs. Is our motivation somehow less “pure” than the woman who so looked down on us? Perhaps. But I would also point out that prior to Disney’s involvement, the school was struggling to find volunteers to do what needed to be done. Judging by the effect of my day of service, if Disney gets a few more buck in their coffers for it, I’d say that was money well spent. And I plan on enjoying my day in Disneyland with my kids with a clear conscience.