It’s funny to track the differences between my childhood in the 1970’s and 1980’s with the world that my kids live in now. The ways we shopped (from fussy department stores to low-budget Kmart) and played (biking through the neighborhoods with abandon), how we listened to music (records and cassettes) and what foods we ate (TV dinners were a treat! Who wouldn’t want your fried chicken leg, mashed potatoes, corn, and soggy brownie to all taste exactly the same!?) were so different from what they expect today.
One big change is how my kids watch TV. With the help of things like online streaming and DVR recordings, they have, at the touch of their fingers, a bajillion (trust me about this number…I’ve done my research) options. But there’s one thing they don’t get to experience much, and that’s commercials.
My sisters and I had so many commercials memorized. We knew—and still know—plenty of jingles (“My Buddy, My Buddy, My Buddy and Me!”)
and taglines (“Mr. Owl, how many licks does it take to get to the Tootsie Roll center of a Tootsie Roll Pop? Good question…uh one, uh two, uh three, crunch.”)
We could sing along to the record compilation commercials which ticked off one snippet of a popular song from some bygone era at a time, the song titles scrolling by with the words in white or yellow. We would act out the Folgers commercial where the older brother comes home early to surprise his family for Christmas and brews them coffee so strong that it literally rouses his family from their upstairs bedrooms. (“Peter! Everyone’s asleep. I know how to wake ‘em up!”)
One commercial we talked about a lot, which I often think of when I’m cutting up a tomato, is the one for Ginsu knives. It showed a man breaking a board with his hand and then trying the same method to slice a rather mealy-looking tomato. It should come as no surprise that the man’s hand did not in fact cut the tomato…it shmooshed it. The commercial went on to show an amazing knife which could cut a can, and then, without losing dullness, it could perfectly slice that tomato.
It cut meat and halved a block of frozen spinach, and it hacked away at a 2×4. Then the announcer asked us what we’d expect to pay for such a wonder tool. “But wait,” he told us, “Here are some steak knives and a spiral slicer and a meat fork…” It all sounded too good to be true.
That’s what I remember most about commercials from that time—products which seemed so good and yet were so cheap. Could we trust these advertisers? Was this a trick, a scam? Could I really cut an aluminum can that easily? We wanted to know! This wariness was the start of my cynicism and mistrust. If it sounds too good to be true, it must not be true.
Then I learned about a word we don’t use very often anymore—faithfulness. When we do hear it, it’s usually in reference to a marriage, or less often a friendship. But mostly it’s just in old church hymns. If you dive into the Book of Psalms, we see faithfulness used nearly 80 times. King David, one of the authors of the Psalms, pairs faithfulness with love and says that God’s faithfulness reaches to the skies. But David also says that God’s faithfulness protects him from wrongdoers. The assurance of God’s enduring faithfulness gives David strength when he’s having a rough time. So what is this quality which is as multi-faceted as a Swiss Army knife (and sharper than a Ginsu)?
Faithfulness means keeping promises. It’s means being reliable and truthful and following through. It suggests associations which are personal and connected. And to some people, especially those who have been continually hurt and disappointed, it sounds too good to be true. But it is possible and available. Don’t believe me? Well, here’s your homework: Read the story of Joseph in the book of Genesis. Watch God weave His promises all through this crazy drama. Watch God bring it all around to a faithful ending, even down to the burying of Joseph’s bones in the Promised Land. Then recite the following verse to yourself: “The faithful love of the Lord never ends! His mercies never cease. Great is his faithfulness; his mercies begin afresh each morning.” (Lamentations 3:22-23)