A healthy economy starts with treating each other well

CONSUMER FORUM 

Posted Dec. 21, 2015, at 8:17 a.m.

As you’re heading into a store intending to be the smartest consumer in the place, take a moment to hold the door for a shopper who’s carrying a lot of packages.

Between stops on your last-minute Christmas shopping list, pause to look at the lights, listen to the sounds of the time and smell the cool, crisp air. Do these little things for one good reason.

You matter.

The pace of our busy lives goes up a few notches at this time of year. It’s easy to forget that we are more than the shoppers who fuel our largely consumer economy. It’s important to remind ourselves to do things for ourselves, as well as for others, because we matter.

Doing for ourselves right now also involves doing for others, thus the blitz of requests for charitable contributions. This is the spot when we advise readers to give locally, so you can see how your gifts work, and avoid the sound-alike pseudo-charities that tend to benefit the fund seekers more than the good causes they purport to assist.

This year, we’ll also ask readers to show their holiday spirit in another way. Make it known to people who have done you a favor or simply done their jobs well that you appreciate what they’ve done. Go beyond a simple “Thank you,” and let them know that what they’ve done really matters … and that they matter.

If all this sounds a bit beyond the scope of consumer advice, consider this. A fair and smooth-running marketplace needs a lot of things to work well; appreciation of the people involved — for who they are and what they do — can only add to the process.

Here’s a personal experience from a trip to Home Depot in Bangor not long ago. Among my purchases were some hinges for a needed repair. Arms full of other packages, I managed to leave the hinges behind. Less thoughtful staff could have tossed them back on the shelf and forgotten the deal; these folks kept a record of my purchase in a computer file, apparently, for the memory challenged.

I thanked the employee who reunited me with my hinges, making it clear that the people who made that happen mattered more than the purchase price of more hinges. Appreciation for a job well done clearly made that employee happy, and that happiness may have been paid forward in any number of ways.

The “You matter” theme is a rallying cry for Angela Maiers, an educational consultant from Iowa. She talks to people young and old about why it’s important to let others know that they matter.

“If you give someone, anyone, a chance to matter, they will exceed your expectations,” Maiers said in a speech recently. “I get to do that every day … and so do you.”

It’s the kind of gift that we can all give. It costs nothing, and the results might surprise you.

Consumer Forum is a collaboration of the Bangor Daily News and Northeast CONTACT, Maine’s all-volunteer, nonprofit consumer organization. For assistance with consumer-related issues, including consumer fraud and identity theft, or for information, write Consumer Forum, P.O. Box 486, Brewer, ME 04412, visit https://necontact.wordpress.com or email contacexdir@live.com.

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