In 1789, President George Washington declared "a day of public thanksgiving and prayer to be observed by acknowledging with grateful hearts the many signal favors of Almighty God." Two hundred, twenty-three years later, President Obama again proclaimed a day to be "grateful for the God-given bounty that enriches our lives." But somewhere through the years, the focus shifted from gratitude FOR the bounty, to acquiring MORE bounty.
The term "Black Friday" has been around since the 1960's (at least, according to the sites I could find in my 3 minutes of internet research), but it's only in the last 10-15 years that it has become a holiday on it's own. Families plan their Thanksgiving outings to be near the largest shopping meccas. Shoppers are actually injuring each other to get new stuff to replace the stuff they were being thankful for just hours earlier. Then Friday expanded to Small Business Saturday and Cyber Monday. What's next? - the "Skip Church to Shop Super Sale - Goliath Savings for the Non-Believer and the Backslider!"
The "gimme" frenzy has now invaded Thanksgiving itself. Many stores run specials on Thursday evening to lure shoppers out even earlier. "Put down that drumstick, Pa. We gotta get to the Wal-Mart!"
Before you get irate at my attitude, let me assure you that I'm not averse to bargain shopping. And I even joined in the Black Friday shop-a-thon for the first time this year - sort of. We were at Mitch's because he was on call - Mitch's girlfriend went home for the weekend and Amanda was in KC with her boyfriend's family - so it was just the three of us. We got curious about how many people would actually line up for the early sales in Hays, KS - so we ventured out to people-watch. Honestly, we were probably all secretly hoping for schadenfreude. We went to Wal-Mart and Home Depot. By the time we drove by the mall, we were tired and the crowd - if there had been one - had thinned, so we didn't stop. We didn't witness any long lines or appalling behavior. We did see Wal-Mart employees scurrying like underpaid Christmas elves to get multi-plex size TV's stocked for the 5:00 a.m. crowd. We bought a few things, but nothing that wouldn't have been the same price the next Tuesday.
It's just sad. Sad that we have become so possession obsessed that we can't devote an entire day to being grateful for what we have. Sad that merchants feed on that obsession to entice us to behave this way. Why can't the specials be offered throughout December? And why have we become so greedy that we will have fist-fights to get a $12 hand mixer for $7.95?
If you've read many of my ramblings, you may know my mantra: Live Simply, Live Graciously, Finish Well. My desire for "stuff" has diminished the past few years. Oh yes, it still rears it's head on occasion - especially near a fabric store or Hobby Lobby - but my idea of living simply is to, as much as possible, cut out those things - possessions, commitments, relationships - that cause unnecessary work or stress with no return. Fabric and craft supplies pay many returns in relaxation, creativity and beauty. But I'm adding a new goal for the new year - and the years beyond . . . to live gratefully. Not just on Thanksgiving, but daily. I will be keeping a gratitude journal to remind me of how blessed I am and The One who has blessed me - and to say "Thank you".