Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Need vs Want

Need- verb require something because it is essential or very important
Want- verb have a desire to possess or do.
(Oxford English Dictionary, 3rd Edition)

As I may or may not have mentioned before, I spend a lot of time in the car. Commuting to and from my city job, driving kids to horse shows and dance lessons and band practices and guitar lessons and friends houses, shopping for kid food and horse food and dog food and the occasional pizza (well, more often than that...okay weekly pizza)...a lot of time in the car. And because of that I spend a fair amount of time listening to the radio (and talking to myself, but that's not socially acceptable so we'll forget about that part).

This time of the year the radio commercials (and television commercials) are relentlessly hawking items for sale and services for hire. I'm okay with that. It's part of the game, right? And some of these commercials are funny and heartwarming and they make me feel all warm and happy inside.

But as my kids have grown older and I've grown more cynical, I find I'm actually listening to the language of these commercials, and as a family we're discussing them. How such and such a vendor is using a particular word to convince you to by their product. How the music is upbeat, so you think you'll be cooler if you shop in their store. How you need a new appliance to get you through the Christmas season. You get the idea, we're talking about marketing strategies and why they work or why they don't. I'm trying to teach them to think before they buy.

The by-product of all of this parental introspection, though, is that I'm actually realizing how much I mimic commercial-speak in my day to day conversation. And, it being Christmas and all, I'm thinking a whole lot more about the fact that as much as I use the word, I don't need anything.

I have enough food.

I have clean, fresh water.

I have a warm, dry house.

I have clothing.

I have good health.

I have a good paying job.

And I have all of the love of my wonderful family and friends.

So why do I use that word so much? Why do I say that I need a new laptop, when really what I mean is that I would like to have one to replace the one I currently have (which, by the way, is still sporting the blue and red lines of death...)? Why do I say I need a coffee? Okay, maybe that qualifies as something very important...especially for the well being of my children. Maybe it would be better to say that they need me to have a coffee.

Do I really need another book? (Yes. Yes, I do.)

Why do I need new clothes, new Christmas lights, hair products or a new toaster?

The fact of the matter is, I don't need. I want. I want a new coat. I desire an iPad. And diamonds. We all have wants, and that's okay. But there are so many people out there who actually do need. And not only is it my responsibility to help teach my children the difference, it's my responsibility to do what I can to help those who do need. The Christmas season is a perfect time to start. Even in little ways, like bringing a can of food for the food bank box or donating to a charity who helps feed and clothe those who do need.

Our kids watch and listen to the media so closely. And it's our responsibility to counteract the constant barrage of influence that things like commercials have. Because of this I'm trying ever so hard to change how I express myself to suit what I mean. To say I want, not I need.

Except when I'm heading to Starbucks.


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