Gratitude, Grinch, Greed or Guilt
I find myself struggling with the Thanksgiving holiday “sale-a-thons”. I understand that retail relies on Black Friday. I know that the origin of the term Black Friday was to draw attention to the fact that it is often the first day of the calendar year when retailers’ books go from red to black.
I appreciate the excitement of families planning together their official holiday shopping spree. Not an event in which I personally participate, mostly because I’m uncomfortable in large crowds. However, I can acknowledge and celebrate the fun that others seem to experience.
Here is my quandary. Have we forgotten about the point of the day – which is gratitude? Am I just being a Grinch? Or are we as a society allowing ourselves to “buy” in to the media hype and be manipulated by our own greed or guilt?
Isn’t Thanksgiving the holiday for family and friends to gather and give thanks, impart family traditions and secret ingredients while sharing appreciation for the blessings they have received? Isn’t it one of only two days a year where businesses are closed in order for their employees to share time with their loved ones?
I know that not all are released from the holiday work requirement. Hospital staff, law enforcement, fire and other first responders of course will find themselves pulling a shift. And for those and other unsung heroes protecting our way of life and keeping us safe, I am forever grateful. None the less, this day has traditionally allowed for the proud display of the “Closed for Business” sign. This once was a day of sharing traditions and celebrating with family and friends by giving thanks.
Many years ago I stopped the stress of Christmas shopping. It was when I learned that the gifts my husband and I had spent so much time, effort, energy and money to buy were left unopened until sometime in the spring. That year the children had been blessed with so many gifts given with love from the members of their extended families that they just couldn’t use them all. I looked around from under the wrapping paper and mound of credit card debt and took stock. It was time for a new gifting strategy.
Now don’t get me wrong, I have been blessed with many precious and thoughtful gifts. I am always filled with sweet memories as I unpack the Christmas bells from Auntie Babe or other beautiful and unique ornaments and presents I have received over the years. However, it was clear that for me a RESET was sorely needed.
So instead of the hustle and bustle of going broke over the holidays, the time, money and effort is now directed to creating special memories through shared experiences – either over the holidays or throughout the year. It was not an easy shift to make and to some may appear a bit Grinch like. However, when the choice is gloves, a gift card or dinner with a friend, I will take the dinner every time.
The more time I spend on this big blue marble the more I realize how limited is the visit. Being able to share a conversation about someone’s latest adventure or create a memory over a hot dog at a ball game – priceless.
The Grinch has long since stopped stealing my holiday spirit and self-esteem by telling me the only way to truly enjoy Christmas morning is waking up to a brand new Lexus in the driveway. Or that unless I am watching “A Christmas Carol” on the newest HD Flat Screen Television with surround sound (the one I had to trample over other shoppers to buy) I haven’t really made it.
Today there is a bigger question: who or what is driving the greed? I will admit that even though I celebrate the tradition of Christmas gift giving mostly by creating memories through experiences, I do like to have nice stuff. So when the opportunity comes along and taps me on the shoulder with an “amazing door buster sale”, it does take a certain amount of self-talk or fingers in my ears as a I sing “la la la la” to avoid the seduction of the sirens “today only sale” call.
And then there is a voice in my head that beckons me to remember that for some the only way they can afford to get their children the “new hot toy” is by leaving their family Thanksgiving dinner table or getting up at 2 am and driving across town because the deals are just too good to pass by. I identify with the deep desire to ensure that your child, niece, nephew, grandchild will not be the one who returns to school without the latest new phone, lap top, doll, or cool clothes. Sincerely I do.
I understand the chasing around and making deals to guarantee that I won’t have to experience the guilt on Christmas morning of a deeply disappointed or heartbroken child. It’s my own childhood memories that can send me screaming into the chaotic Thanksgiving madness with little time and less money. Still, to this day I can recall the feeling of longing for the Easy Bake Oven that wasn’t under my Christmas tree. More importantly my heart aches when I think about the unnecessary guilt my mom carried for years when she couldn’t afford to give me the new Barbie Bendable Leg Doll. It seems to be this vicious cycle of guilt and greed that the retail giants and advertisers count on.
So the struggle continues:
Retailers make money and create jobs. Without jobs people don’t have money to spend and when people don’t spend money – well we’ve all been down that road.
But here’s the thing – do we have to spend money that we may not have on the one day that is set aside to be grateful for what we do have? Can we simply allow ourselves to have an attitude of gratitude? When your mom opens the door and gives you that warm welcoming hug, or when you see the smile on your child’s face when she eats her favorite dessert, can’t that be enough? How about being there to hear Uncle Bill’s excitement over his favorite football team finally winning this year? What is that worth to you, to him?
Our economy has managed lo these many years to survive without shopping on Thanksgiving. There was a time when the economy actually thrived without stores being open on Sundays, let alone at 5pm on Thanksgiving Day.
Is it possible to send a message this year to the retail gods and goddesses and simply say “no” to shopping on Thanksgiving? Can we overcome the manipulation of holiday greed and guilt by staying away from the ads and instead playing a game after dinner? What is possible if, instead of shopping or picketing, we just stay home and be grateful?