When news broke this past month that not only stores would be opening even earlier on Thanksgiving night for Black Friday shopping, but that some, like K-Mart would be open from 6 Am on thanksgiving to 11 Pm on Friday night, many people were upset. The commercialized aspects of the holiday seem to grow each year, and the special family times seem to shrink away into nothing. The days of families gathering around the table for a Thanksgiving Dinner like in the Norman Rockwell painting seem to be like things from the history books.
In it’s place is chaos, pandemonium and news stories of people being beaten, shot, stabbed and trampled to death in a mad rush to get the latest items on sale. Tired, frazzled and hungry masses pack through malls and trudge about like something out of a zombie movie. It is pretty disgusting sometimes, and it came any one start to wonder if The Grinch and Scrooge weren’t on to something. Some even defend these practices, and while it would take too long to list all these arguments, they are best summed up in these terms,
“The holidays don’t matter. Work your butt off. Make money. That’s all that matters. If you aren’t working then you’ll probably be sitting in a parking lot doing drugs. At least you’ll be doing something. Who needs days off anyway?”
However these people couldn’t be anymore wrong than if they called a tomato a skyscraper. Holidays are an important part of our year, if for no other reason then they give us something more to look for ward to then the usual humdrum of going to work and paying the bills. They give us a since of fun and merriment and joy that we otherwise wouldn’t have at those times of the year. When the wind grows cold and the days get longer it’s nice to know that there’s a chance to gather around the warmth of the hearth with those we love and celebrate. We need days where we just do nothing but enjoy those finer things in life and appreciate all we have. We need to have more to life than just working for a pay check, otherwise we would work ourselves to the point of exhaustion and even death.
What is it that makes these days so wonderful, aside from the time off to rest and relax? Charles Dickens summed it up best in A Christmas Carol,
“There are many things from which I might have derived good, by which I have not profited, I dare say…Christmas among the rest. But I am sure I have always thought of Christmas time, when it has come round -apart from the veneration due to its sacred name and origin, if anything belonging to it can be apart from that- as a good time; a kind, forgiving, charitable, pleasant time; the only time I know of, in the long calendar of the year, when men and women seem by one consent to open their shut-up hearts freely, and to think of people below them as if they really were fellow-passengers to the grave, and not another race of creatures bound on other journeys. And therefore, uncle, though it has never put a scrap of gold or silver in my pocket, I believe that it has done me good, and will do me good; and I say, God bless it!”
This applies to Thanksgiving as well. How can we take notice of our fellow-travelers when we’re busy reaching for a taser because someone else grabbed that last Blu-Ray player we saw? How can any holiday mean anything when we are so busy rushing from one to another? Maybe that’s why so many people get upset about the Black Friday sales starting earlier. We had only just gotten done with Halloween, and Thanksgiving is just getting squeezed in there before Christmas. Soon we’ll have to buy Valentines on New Year’s Day, and Easter eggs on Valentines, and before you know it it’s time to buy back to school supplies. Then the start the whole process all over again.
It’s an endless cycle and we feel trapped. We want the world to stop for just five seconds so we can enjoy it all. That really isn’t to much to ask. Deep down most of us know this is true. Hopefully, things will start to turn back the other way in terms of holiday shopping, but that doesn’t seem possible. If sales are good this year, stores will just open earlier next year.
In the meantime, maybe there is something we can all do to make this time of the year brighter, amidst all the yelling, and shouting and fighting. Certainly petitions are nice, but at this point they won’t do any good. The minds of the store executives are made up and the schedules for next week are set. Don’t bother holding a rally or protest as those are only going to make things worse at the stores.
However what I suggest is this, whether or not you plan to go to the stores to do Christmas shopping on Thanksgiving or Black Friday, say thank you to those who are working. They are sacrificing their time with their families to serve you. Instead of clobbering that old lady with a roll of wrapping paper to stop her from getting something you wanted, why not help her get that item that is hard to reach? Instead of running over some young mother and her kid in a stroller with your shopping cart, why not let them ahead of you?
Don’t fight over that primo parking spot close to the store. There is no reason to cause a car accident just to go shopping. Actually it’s much healthier if you park further away and walk in. Unless there’s 15 feet of snow on the ground, the sidewalks are covered with ice, and there is a sever wind-chill, there’s no reason not to walk. Yes, it may still be cold, but it’ll certainly help wake you up a lot faster, and not to mention better, then smashing into another car.
Maybe instead of screaming at the poor high school student who is behind the register why not smile at them? Don’t worry, you don’t have to accept any credit cards, additional purchases, or discount offers. But a friendly smile and a pleasant word would do the trick, especially as compared to growling at them first thing in the morning as they are trying to open the coin rolls to give you change. As you’re leaving the store, drop some of that loose change in the red kettles. Show some kindness.
Don’t just limit this to those who are working in retail. Chances you may be out and about that day, even if you don’t shop. Maybe you’ll go visit your grandparent in a nursing home. Maybe you’re meeting up with some friends. Maybe you’re just doing the traditional family get together. You may even be running in a Thanksgiving Day marathon.
Whatever you do, where ever you go, there will be stops along the way. You may stop at a gas station and see attendant working there alone. Thank them. Thank the doctors, nurses, fire fighters, and police officers who are working to keep you safe when you see them. Thank the kids working at the movie theater. Leave a nice tip to the person serving you food at a restaurant.
Then go home. Count your blessings. Spend time with those you love. Kiss your wife .Hug your husband. Play with your kids. Politely laugh at your in-laws jokes. Call (or text) an old friend. Sneak an extra roll for that beloved dog.
But whatever you do, wherever you go, take some time to actually celebrate what this day is about. Don’t let it be just another day to shop.