Thanksgiving has come and gone, and I certainly hope everyone had a lovely and reverent day remembering and thanking the One from whom our blessings flow.
But sadly for many, Thanksgiving is a time of complications. Sometimes those complications stem from difficult family dynamics. Sometimes they stem from economic hardships. Sometimes they stem from loneliness. And sometimes they stem from misplaced priorities.
A major example of this, in my opinion, is the phenomenon known as Black Friday, when people become feral and primal – a veritable pack of wolves – in order to buy things very few of them actually need. The contrast between the reverent thankfulness of Thanksgiving and the rampant consumerism of the day after has always bothered me.
I have a friend who works at a large department store, and that store decided to open at midnight on Thanksgiving Day. Essentially what it meant is my friend’s Thanksgiving was ruined. She and her family ended up celebrating Thanksgiving on Wednesday, as a result of the consumer-driven pressure on her employer. She’s grateful for the job, of course, because her husband has been unemployed for well over a year; but she doesn’t like the pressure of taking what should be a relatively unmaterialistic day – Thanksgiving – and turning it into a materialistic madhouse.
Someone recently asked me if I was planning on joining a boycott of Black Friday, since apparently there’s a movement afoot to that effect. I replied that we boycott it by default. We live too far away from stores to participate in such events, and we sure as heck don’t have the money to spend on unnecessary things. But I must say, I can’t argue with the logic behind this boycott.
“It’s time to stop the madness into which major national retailers have turned this day,” notes a blogger named Tom Fleming, “when people let themselves be manipulated by clever marketing into greedy monsters who steal items out of others’ carts and literally trample store employees and each other to death in the mad pursuit of cheap merchandise. On top of that, the stores are now depriving their employees of a meaningful Thanksgiving with their families by making them come to work Thursday evening to open the stores by midnight or earlier, and work all night and day dealing with the mobs that the retailers have lured in with special ‘bargains.’”
The consuming desire for consumerism is antithetical to a simple life, and obviously I’m “big” on living as simple a life as possible. And to my way of thinking, Black Friday might be a good time to start simplifying, not shopping. Not just for personal economic reasons, though those are important; but because of the economic worries that are growing on a national and international scale. Those economic woes are far more dangerous, truly something feral and primal.
So how will simplifying your life protect you from these predators? Simplicity gives you a cleanness of purpose and a calmness of spirit. It means you don’t spend money you don’t have on things you don’t need for people who don’t appreciate them. It means you prioritize your spending on things that are truly important (we just bought a bull calf, for instance) while devoting your time and energy into improving family relations and cultivating healthy friendships.
But there’s an unhealthy relationship between the media, corporations, consumers and even our own government. We are urged to consume and consume and consume at the expense of our finances, our ethics, our morality and even our gratitude (which, if you remember, is the whole purpose of Thanksgiving).
People forget that happiness does not stem from the things we own. Rather, happiness stems from the satisfaction of making the right decisions in life – decisions like picking and staying married to the right person, like raising children to be thankful and well-mannered instead of greedy and bratty, like not spending more than you earn and other choices that contribute toward a simpler life.
Times are coming when we will strongly regret not making those good choices while we could. If the economy crashes (as the signs increasingly indicate), what good will those snatched Black Friday consumer goods do you? What if, instead, you put your money toward a full pantry, and your time and energy toward loving your spouse and raising your kids right?
But of course, a full pantry, a happy spouse and well-disciplined children do not make news headlines – not like camping overnight in the mall parking lot and fighting like animals to be the first inside a store, trampling and pepper-spraying people as we go. Not like occupying public parks, defecating on police cars and demanding free college education and health care.
Don’t get me wrong, I have no objection to gift-giving or reasonable consumerism. My friend wouldn’t have a job if people didn’t shop at her department store. But nor would my friend have to forego celebrating Thanksgiving on the traditional day if her employer weren’t determined to attract primal shoppers who trample other shoppers for the best deals.
And who is the biggest consumer of all? That’s right, our government. Nationally, we are now in debt deeper than any nation ever has been in the history of the world. That debt is unsustainable. It’s only a matter of time before it topples us. Adding the burden of personal debt at such a time is insane.
We are now facing dangerous times, times that most of us now living have never seen before. Wars and rumors of wars abound. False prophets are using these dangerous times to foment discord, anger and strife for the purpose of gaining power over us. The easiest path to that power is the tried-and-true mechanism of driving people into crushing debt and the accompanying mental state of hopelessness and slavery.
We have only one antidote to this madness: Put your house in order. Prepare and simplify your life. Help those around you, who will listen and whom you love, to do the same.
That way when the wolf comes to your door, you won’t be obliged by want, fear or despair to let him in.