Does anybody else remember green stamps? In the days before the Kroger Rewards Card, Delta Sky Miles and the Cabela Club, retailers rewarded customers with green stamps. Instead of ethereal reward points stored mysteriously in the cloud, shoppers received something positively tangible – a strip of stamps – proportional to the size of the purchase.
To participate in this program, you didn’t need a special card, app or QR code. All one needed was the 4 inch x 4 inch booklets provided free of charge at participating retailers. The unfortunate offspring of these loyal consumers would later be forced to fill the square grids printed on each page with stamps.
Now, no one whose childhood included the 60’s or 70’s can ever expel from their memory the acute bouts of nausea brought on by licking the sticky backs of hundreds of these stamps before placing them in those dratted squares. I’ve heard that some merciful parents permitted their children to use a wet sponge rather than the tongue and saliva given them by their Creator. I’m guessing these were the same parents that didn’t spank their kids and allowed them to stay up and watch Johnny Carson. No such luck for me! Hours of licking concluded with an early bedtime – preceded by a spanking if I resisted.
The rich reward these child laborers ultimately received may have actually been worth the misery of stamp-licking. As a child, few things generated more excitement than the prospect of lugging a shoe box bulging with the thick, leafy books of green stamps into the Green Stamp Store and emerging with some unspeakable treasure – like a set of yard darts, for instance. (I mean what more could a young boy ask for? Large, sharp projectiles that you hurled in the air in the general direction of you competitor. Wow! Yard darts were much more engrossing than today’s video games! But that’s another topic for another day.)
Suffice it to say the Green Stamp Store had plenty of games and toys to brighten the eyes and imagination of any sentient six year old. Trading in those crinkly pages filled with stamps and dried saliva for something of immense value was my first image of the act of “redeeming.” A person could redeem these stamps for something of great value. So from my earliest memories, I have been fascinated by the idea of redeeming – the idea of redemption. That’s why, I believe, today I remain a “redemption guy.”
Now by calling myself a “redemption guy”, I mean that the way I make sense out of bad things in my life is by believing that these bad things can be redeemed for something better. When bad things happen, usually there is some “redeeming value” to the experience. That’s why you often hear people say things like “I certainly wouldn’t wish that bad experience on anyone, but now that it has happened to me, in some way I’m glad.”
Don’t get me wrong. I have yet to find the redeeming value in some of the bad experiences I’ve had. (My root canal for instance – couldn’t they just have pulled the tooth? And two-hours of “diversity training”? Is that really necessary EVERY year?). But for most difficult experiences, with a little time, I believe we usually find that we receive something useful or positive as a result. Maybe the results aren’t as exciting as yard darts. But hey, not many things are…..