The Promotional Community You Live in
Fresh Promotions' office is in Newstead Brisbane. Traditionally Newstead has been an overlooked inner-city wasteland the site, for over a century of the local council maintenance depots and industrial docking facilities. As is usually the case with rundown inner-city suburbs, many of the long-time residents have hard-luck stories and chequered histories to match their surroundings.
In our street, for as long as anyone can remember, a gentleman of uncertain age, ethnic origin and mental stability has lived in one of the commercial properties. He is keen to engage any passer-by in conversation and sufficient to say his opinions and preoccupations are disturbing to many, particularly as each monologue is largely comprised of profanity and expressions of deeply held anger. Watching his attempts to engage people in conversation out our office window it is obvious that the great majority, if indeed not all people with whom he engages would rather be doing something else. Like the ancient mariner who is cursed to stoppeth one of three, our local character is difficult to deny your attention.
Over years of observing and speaking with our suburb's longest resident citizen a very different picture starts to emerge of the world in which he lives and how it is entirely different to individual perceptions. Over the years the gentleman has regularly asked for small loans; $20 here, always for food, or footwear or to buy his lotto tickets. Every time money has been loaned, always with the expectation that it will never be seen again, there is a knock on the door next pension day which when answered reveals our neighbour standing there with money in his hand to make good his debt. No amount of argument will ever persuade him to keep the money and indeed he insists on washing our cars or assisting with some manual labour without payment in consideration of interest on the loan.
What's fascinating is how many local people have similar arrangements with our neighbour. How many people's lives he intersects and in every case how much good-will, generosity and concern comes his way in spite of the superficial difficulties he presents.
The lady who lives in the flats across the road mends and alters his clothes for him. The photographer and his wife next door have assisted him at every stage in dealing with the government and seeing-off the police who constantly question him and ask for identification in the street. The production staff from Cochlear implants whose factory is in our street, lend him money and engage in meaningful conversation, daily. The boys who run the spring factory three doors up who give him part time jobs and sometimes let him sleep in the storeroom. Everywhere there are people who it seems are members of our local community each of whom in their own way is making an unheralded sacrifice and showing empathy to somebody who at first meeting is difficult and seemingly dangerous.
How different is the reality of our world compared to the negativity and manipulations we see in the news media and in the behaviour of our political class? While we are told we live in an economy and our neighbours are only restrained from negative behaviour by the rule of law, it appears we live in an entirely different world where trust, sacrifice, empathy and giving are more ready rules than those proposed by our leaders. Even worse this negativity towards others, and ultimately ourselves, is often the default value of our own minds.
This story is supposed to be about promotional products, and the personal aspects of promotional marketing. And perhaps it is. But most of all the realisation that our most difficult neighbour is the centre of a social structure built on trust, respect and empathy is a call to open our eyes and take into account the true nature of the community in which we operate. Consider the community of business people with whom you deal and look again at the interplay of relationships. It won't take long to realise that our interconnection and interdependence is deeper than imagined and that the most difficult and those who generate the greatest fear or resentment are as critical to the operation of the whole as those who you currently believe to be its backbone.