What I Learned From Trying To Give Away Free Tickets To AstroWorld: A Giving Effort that Backfired

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Since I am in the process of participating in the 10 Day Give event I thought I would share my favorite giving experience.  It is not my favorite experience because the act of charity was received with such joy and appreciation.  It is my favorite because of how difficult I found it to give.

Who Wants Free Tickets to AstroWorld?

Back in the early 2000’s I joined an energetic group of 11 young men and women who were anticipating an exciting day at AstroWorld (now deceased – relegated to ruins in south Houston) in Houston, TX.  These young people were the youth group and I was the brave and fearless (and quite naive) Youth Minister. While the young blood quickly ran through their scrawny veins I dragged my feet and mumbled to myself about how much I hate these days.  AstroWorld was that day when every kid in the youth group made it their goal to get me to ride on the biggest and baddest rollercoaster.  Unfortunately, I am a guy who HATES rides.  I get sick on a park swing.  If I really wanted to vomit I’m not about to pay $50 for the privilege.  Anyways, one year in a moment of weakness a couple of kids convinced me to ride a “baby” roller coaster.  Big mistake.  Ever since, all I’ve heard is, “You didn’t go on my roller coaster.”  Hmm.  I guess none of this has anything to do with my story other than bringing up old repressed memories.  So, without any further adieu, back to the story …

As it so happened, we needed to buy 15 tickets to get the group discount.  Interestingly the total of 15 group tickets was less than the cost of 13 regular rate tickets.  So I bought 15 tickets.  I nonchalantly sent two little junior high kids off to give away two free tickets to AstroWorld – a $50 per ticket value.  After a few minutes they came back apologizing because they couldn’t give them away.  Inside I was disappointed by their feeble effort.  I snatched the tickets and thought “if you want to have something done right you better do it yourself”.  It didn’t take long to realize that it wasn’t the kids — it was the concept of free tickets.  Instead of a patron saint, I quickly shifted into salesman mode.

No seriously, dude, these tickets are completely free.

Please, ma’am, I’m a youth minister and I’m here with these kids … Hey get back here.

We eventually did find a couple of punk looking teenagers who just said “for real?” and headed off looking at the tickets like they were contaminated. 

I guess you can have the coolest ideas and they do not always take off.  But, I think I learned some good lessons along the way.

What I learned from trying to give away free tickets at AstroWorld:

  • There is a deep lack of trust ingrained in us. 
  • People don’t do something for nothing.
  • If’ it’s too good to be true it probably is.
  • There is no free lunch.

It can be hard to give in a world like ours – a world oozing with greed and selfishness.  But, exactly because of this brokenness, a door is open for the powerful message of sacrificial, no strings attached, altruistic giving.  It’s a powerful concept.  Want to stop someone dead in their tracks today?  Offer to give him or her something free with absolutely not expectation for anything in return.  That is revolutionary.  And, by the way, that is what Christ calls us to be – revolutionary.  Regardless of the difficulty, I want to encourage all of us to continue to be cheerful givers :).

Photo Credit: From Flickr By Tony the Misfit

Do you have any giving experiences that backfired?

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