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Sweetest Day's noble intent exploited by companies

Oct. 17, 2000

Although Halloween is the holiday generally associated with the giving of sweets, another is slowly creeping up on the national calendar (this Saturday to be specific) and also into the spotlight.

Sweetest Day, celebrated on the third Saturday of October, is a national holiday for showing an act of kindness to one another.

Though many have criticized the holiday as a 'pseudo-Valentine's Day' or just 'another marketing ploy by Hallmark,' its origin arose from seemingly noble intentions. The idea was conceived in the 1930s from a Cleveland man, who believed that homeless orphans and other outcasts, which roamed the streets near his work, were too often neglected and forgotten.

One Saturday in October, the man, along with the help of some of his friends and neighbors, gave out cards and small gifts to the homeless vagrants he found in the streets.

The man's actions were revered by many in his community and the idea slowly became a progressive ritual in the city as a day set aside to remember and spread cheer to the underprivileged.

That day became known as 'Sweetest Day' and soon spread to other cities all over the country.

Now as a national holiday, Sweetest Day has evolved into one of the most po

pular holidays celebrated in the North, specifically in the Cleveland and Detroit areas.

But with popularity comes profitability. Like other major holidays, such as Christmas and Easter, multi-million dollar corporations, such as Hallmark and Creative Chocolates Inc., have stepped in to turn a sincere concept into a lucrative empire.

Instead of promoting the holiday as a day to show kindness to the underprivileged, they are marketing it as a day to celebrate a loved one, hence a Valentine, mass-marketing undertone.

Being from Texas, I wasn't well-acquainted with the holiday or its rituals. However, I was familiar with Corporate America's constant attempt to capitalize on any potentially lucrative occasion such as Sweetest Day and I was disgusted by it.

But don't get me wrong: Business is very important to society. Not only do companies provide millions of jobs to Americans, they also are extremely crucial to the nation's economy for boosting capital and ultimately making America the wealthiest nation in the world.

But I also think they have their place and need to allow some holidays to remain true to their intended principles.

Sweetest Day was inspired by an anonymous benefactor's good will and charity, not by a money-hungry drive to make a quick buck.

I feel that if we are to fully honor that humble act of kindness that took place 70 years ago, our motives should be genuine and sincere as well.

So this Saturday, I encourage everyone not to just treat this holiday as another Valentine's Day that has been transported to October, but as an opportunity to be kind, either with a nice word or a friendly smile.

I believe the Roman philosopher Seneca said it best with this quote: 'Wherever there is a human being, there is an opportunity for kindness.'

The companies are right. There is profit to be gained from the holiday, but not monetary. By celebrating the holiday's intended precept, you too can gain the spiritual reward that by your simple acts of kindness, you have enriched another life.

(Blair Martin is a sophomore journalism major from Waco.)