by Bo McDonald
The Lorax is truly one of my favorite Dr. Seuss stories. If you’re not familiar, here’s the Wikipedia summary:
A young boy living in a polluted town visits a strange reclusive man called the Once-ler “on the far end of town where the Grickle-grass grows… in the Street of the Lifted Lorax”, who never appears in full onscreen; only his limbs are shown. The boy pays the Once-ler fifteen cents, a nail, and the shell of a great-great-great grandfather snail to explain why the area is in such a run-down state. The Once-ler explains to the boy that he arrived in a beautiful, pristine valley containing happy, playful fauna that spent their days romping around blissfully among “Truffula trees”. The Once-ler proceeded to cut down the Truffula trees to gather raw material to knit “Thneeds,” a comically versatile invention of his, “which everyone needs”. Thneeds can be used as a shirt, a sock, a glove, a hat, a carpet, a pillow, a sheet, or a curtain.
By cutting down the tree, however, he summoned the titular Lorax, who was “shortish and oldish and brownish and mossy … with a voice that was sharpish and bossy”, to appear from the stump of a Truffula tree. He “speaks for the trees, for the trees have no tongues” and warned the Once-ler of the consequences of cutting down the truffula trees, but the Once-ler ignored him, instead calling his relatives to come and work in his factory.
Soon the once beautiful area became choked with pollution and the Lorax sent away the fauna to find more hospitable habitats. Confronted by the Lorax, the Once-ler declared his intention to keep “biggering” his operations, but at that very moment, they “heard the tree fall. The very last Truffula tree of them all.” Without raw materials, his factory shut down; without the factory, his relatives left. Then the Lorax, silently, with one “very sad, sad backward glance”, lifted himself by the seat of his pants and flew away through the clouds.
The most important part of The Lorax for credit union executives comes at the very end:
The Once-ler lingered on in his crumbling residence, living in seclusion and remorse, while pondering over a message the Lorax left behind: a stone slab etched with the word “Unless”. In the present, the Once-ler says that he now realizes that the Lorax means that unless someone cares, the situation will not improve. The Once-ler then gives the boy the last Truffula seed and tells him to plant it, saying that “Truffula Trees are what everyone needs” and hoping that, if the boy grows a whole forest of the trees, “the Lorax, and all of his friends may come back.”
When our team prepares marketing plans for our clients, we spend a good amount of time researching the economics of the communities they serve. There are some hurting people out there. And while your credit union can’t cure every ailment, you hold the power in your hands to make a difference in many lives. Think about how many people in your community are trapped by the high interest costs of payday lenders or the buy-here pay-here car lots. Consider the unemployed or under-employed in your community who are trying to live on less. How about the college student who decided that it would be cool to get that first credit card? They’re learning a real-life lesson that’s resulted in thousands of dollars in debt with no hope left. Who will help these individuals through their personal financial mess?
Banks concentrate on the bottom line. The government is focused on partisan politics. But your credit union is in a position to be a source of hope in your community.
In the words of the Once-ler: “Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot, nothing is going to get better. It’s not.”