From Thanksgiving to Black Friday

Nov 25th 2011

I love Thanksgiving.  Why? 

Well first of all, it’s a holiday celebrating a Biblical principle of life.  It’s a day when the virtue of gratitude is practiced.  Gratitude is one of the most unappreciated, yet powerful disciplines for a life lived well.  In fact even scientific research is beginning to recognize the value of gratitude.  In the last few years the science of gratitude has grown with a variety of research studies showing that gratitude is one of humanity’s most powerful positive emotions.  One psychologist calls it “an emotional reset button.”

“Oprah was right,” said University of Miami psychology professor Michael McCullough, who has studied people who are asked to practice gratitude. “When you are stopping and counting your blessings, you are sort of hijacking your emotional system.”  (Hijacking it from a negative funk to a more positive sense of peace and joy.)  McCullough said psychologists used to underestimate the strength of simple gratitude: “It does make people happier … It’s that incredible feeling.”

Secondly I love Thanksgiving because it’s one of the most pure holidays left in America.  What do I mean by that?  I mean it is unsullied by consumerism and it’s focused on relationships.  Think about it; how many holidays do we celebrate that don’t include a sale?  Halloween?  6.9 Billion spent on candy and costumes.  Easter is the second biggest candy buying holiday in the country, but those Easter baskets usually contain more than candy.  Let’s not even talk about Christmas — what’s the consumer goal this year?  500 Billion Dollars Plus?  But Thanksgiving? Turkeys.  That’s it.

Of course, consumer-crud is trying to work it’s way into the fabric of our last pure holiday.  Black Friday inches its way earlier and earlier every year.  This year Wal-Mart opened at 10pm.  Have you read any of Black Friday reports?  Not very relational.  Armed robberies of people waiting in line.  Multiple pepper-spray incidents, one from a security guard on an unruly crowd, one from an upset shopper toward people cutting in line. Fights over hdtv sets.  Multiple people taken to the hospital.  People pushed to the ground in the mad dash to get into a store first.  In the words of Seth Meyer, “Really? Really?”  People fighting to get stuff we don’t need to save money we don’t have.  Really?

From Thanksgiving to Black Friday, I’m not without blame.  Jake decided to go check out the Black Friday Best Buy sale at midnight.  I gave him my credit card just in case he saw something I wanted, and I did go into two stores today.  In my defense, I shopped, but I didn’t buy.

I’m not sure what we should do, but I will simply say this.

Gratitude will fill up our life.  Consumerism will drain our life.  Stuff will never satisfy.  Every good and perfect gift comes from God and I don’t think God shops at Wal-Mart, Best Buy, or Target (sorry Sarah). In fact I’m pretty sure that God doesn’t do retail at all.  Nothing against retail gifts, Christmas or otherwise.  I’m certain I will give and receive a few this Christmas.

But somehow we need to regain our equilibrium.  Give less presents.  Give more presence.  Make Thanksgiving more than just a day…