Is it just me, or is there a glaring paradox in what occurs in the United States between dawn on Thanksgiving morning and midnight just one day later?
I was watching a news story the other night about a woman who had pitched her tent toward Best Buy early in the week, the better to guarantee a chance (sic) on Black Friday of sating her family’s voracious appetite for cheap foreign-made products on Red Christmas. Perhaps she had just been evicted from a public park somewhere–who knows? I wonder how many other occupiers will simply pack up their gear and move from Wall Street to Walmart this week–in their hearts, if not in their tents.
Relatively few people will miss today’s opportunity to feast if they have the means to do so. Even people who have never been thankful to anyone for anything (an all-too-significant proportion of the Great Ninety-Nine Percent) will spend the day exulting in their hard-won freedom, eating extravagantly, and sitting in leather armchairs in front of $1000 Japanese televisions watching millionaires in tight pants play a game.
Meanwhile, their wives and daughters will be planning their surprise attack on the nearest retail outlets, happily disputing the merits of going at night, like Washington at Trenton, or waiting until dawn, after a nutritious IHOP breakfast, when they can see the whites of their enemies’ eyes. (You see, the attack is really not against the retailers–Oh, no, my friends–but against all the other shoppers. The stores are simply the battlefields–the aisles in the toy departments are the trenches of Flanders, the parking lots the beaches of Normandy.) The scenic route over the river and through the woods will be long forgotten even though it was traversed a mere 24 hours earlier. Now, on one of the few occasions when middle school geometry is invoked, routes will be plotted that employ the shortest distance between two points. By the end of the day these thankful people will have left in their wake thousands of certifiable retail workers, trashed bins of “goods”, and perhaps, if history repeats itself, a corpse or two.
Is it just me, or is there a disconnect between the presumed gratitude of Thursday and the predatory attitude of Friday? Surely, the juxtaposition of these two days is not lost on you!
On Day One of Thanksgetting (now a two-day occasion) we spend many happy hours “being thankful” for all we have, crowing about love and good will, and eating more in one meal than many people in the world will eat in the coming week.
On Day Two of Thanksgetting, we drive our fine automobiles at high speed down our fine interstates and stampede enormous stores with thousands of other grateful, contented shoppers bent on spending money they don’t have on stuff they don’t need made by children they’ve never met in countries they can’t spell. We trample each other to get at new toys for our children; then, on Christmas morning when those same children fight over those same toys, we scream, “Now, you kids share and play nice!”
Best-selling Canadian author Dave Chilton (The Wealthy Barber and The Wealthy Barber Returns) remarks, “Our pets live more comfortably than half of the Earth’s population…We obsess so much about what we don’t have that it affects our ability to enjoy what we do have.” He quotes Associated Press columnist Harold Coffin as saying, “Envy is the art of counting the other fellow’s blessings instead of your own”. His favourite quotation is by Doris Day, of all people, who observed, “Gratitude is riches. Complaint is poverty.”*
I quote Paul of Tarsus:
“Now there is great gain in godliness with contentment, for we brought nothing into the world, and we cannot take anything out of the world. But those who desire to be rich fall into temptation, into a snare, into many senseless and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction.” (1 Tim 6.6-9, ESV)
Happy Thanksgiving–and may your Friday be one of reasoned contentment.
*Dave Chilton’s article appears in the October 2011 edition of the Canadian Reader’s Digest, pp. 140-164.