Seeing the World Through the Word
The enticing aromas of sweet potato and pumpkin pie; the alluring scent of brown sugar and cinnamon mixed with the inviting fragrance of the yams the two spices marinate; the mouth-watering savor of collard greens, string beans, cabbage, turnips seasoned just right; the welcome scent of ham glazed and adorned with pineapple and clove, corn freshly buttered, stuffing mixed with gravy and the familiar and comforting aroma of turkey cooked to golden brown perfection – these are some of the smells of Thanksgiving. Bellowing laughter filling the air; the chatter of familiar voices of family and friends seen far too infrequently; the pitter-patter of excited feet as children scuttle through rooms delighted about this once a year gathering with cousins, aunts, uncles and grandparents; the metallic clang of pots, pans and silverware and the clinking of glassware and plates in preparation of the yearly feast –a grace prayed to God with sincere and heartfelt gratitude – these are some of the sounds of Thanksgiving. Deep feelings of nostalgia, heart-warming moments as the family reminisces of years gone by and family members gone on, appreciation for the love that fills the home, gratitude for family and friends- acceptance of their imperfections, grateful for their presence- Thankfulfulness. These are the feelings of Thanksgiving.
1 Thessalonians 5:18 says in everything give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you. Once a year, as a nation we set aside a day to corporately give thanks to God for all that he has provided us. His giving of family and friends, food and shelter, good times and even the joys found in the midst of the most troubling of times. It is a time for family and friends to come together and to remember life’s precious moments. A time to sit together in family rooms laughing and joking, communing with those dearest to us; a time to remember in joy even those dear to us who have passed on. Thanksgiving – a time, as a united people, to give thanks, gratefully utilizing the time we have remaining in our brief, yet full lives to indulge old memories and to create new ones to be rehearsed in like manner on Thanksgivings to come. It is therefore saddening to consider that this one day of corporate giving of thanks, communion and the comforting warmth of the gathering of family and friends is slowly being eroded -faded out- by a day of cold consumerism. Enter Black Friday.
Black Friday is the term referencing the day that has become known as the beginning of the holiday shopping season – more precisely, the point at which retailers begin to turn a profit moving from the red to the black. This day, a day many people are free from work in reverence of the Thanksgiving Holiday and in consideration of time spent with family has begun to cast its frigid shadow over one of our most precious of holidays. In days gone by retailers once respected the hallowed nature of the Thanksgiving Holiday, allowing us (and their employees) to give thanks to God and spend time with family and friends – reserving their bid for our dollars to the day following our Thanksgiving gatherings. Now however, desperate for our dollars to ensure their profits, retailers have strategically initiated a constant deluge of circulars, emails, internet posts, TV ads and more to precursor the Thanksgiving Holiday to ensure that they have whet our appetites for the “post”-Thanksgiving bargains. Door-buster bargains that they annually promise won’t be offered again and can’t be found elsewhere. Supplies are limited. They have strived to draw our attention and time away from our family, friends and focus on gratitude toward the material objects in their ads; adding to the bid for our dollars a more aggressive competition for our time. Our time is limited.
Retailers have strived to build our anticipation- focus our attention- on the day after Thanksgiving, more than the Holiday itself. In so doing their regard for the Holiday and all that it means to us has diminished. Little concern is given to the laughter, the love, the warmth, the stories, the hugs, the memories, the reminiscing, the aromas, the grace of God- the thankfulness we thrive on. Where once retailers reserved the opening of their doors for their Black Friday sales to the early hours of 4am or 5am that Friday morning, in a race to our dollars, they have seductively intruded into the Holiday; creeping ever closer to our post-feast time relaxation, ever nearer our shared time around the table, reaching surreptitiously for our time spent listening to familiar heart-warming stories, laughing at familiar jokes, hugging the anticipated guests as we, with a deep and genuine smile, opened our doors to them or as we as guests, are greeted in like manner as doors were opened to us. Retailers no longer awaiting the official passing of the holiday, in a clandestine bid for our time, are digging deeply into the one thing we can never earn. Once spent, our time is gone. The psalmist writes in Psalms 90:12, “So teach us to number our days, that we may apply our hearts unto wisdom.”
Retailers greedy for our money would rather we apply our hearts elsewhere. Tentatively cold doors began opening at 12 midnight, extending a spurious welcome to strangers competing to get in. Their harsh, focused faces met with trained greeters offering the smiles they are paid to display; a hug – inappropriate and more importantly undesired. A chaotic mob of bustling bodies colliding in a race to the featured merchandise, everyone keenly aware that the numbers comprising the unfriendly mass surely surpassed the number of items available. People hurt; bodies and feelings trampled, no gratitude – no giving of thanks; just cold, impersonal pursuit of stuff, the only reward, temporary stuff that produces a fleeting rush of temporary joys.
Retailers have become emboldened by their ability to excite and entice us. Confident of our valuation of the objects of their ads as having greater worth to us than our limited – and irretrievable- time with loved ones they then began to push further into Thanksgiving Day, opening their doors at 10pm Thanksgiving night. “Black Friday” had been officially settled in Thanksgiving Thursday. Now retailers, to further entrench Black Friday in our day of thanksgiving, trespass respectful boundaries, intent that we cede precious ground, are opening their doors as early as 8pm on Thanksgiving Day. The expectation of course is that restless lines will begin to amass hours before. This would by necessity require the dispersing of family, friends and loved ones from their Thanksgiving gatherings even earlier. Black Friday’s cold and merciless shadow, its message of consumerism, is being cast over our Thanksgiving gatherings of friends and family. Retailers have grown confident, certain, that they can draw us from the warmth of our living rooms, our families and loved ones –our expressing of gratitude- to cold lonely lines full of strangers, with circulars in hand, waiting for the doors to open in pursuit of things. I am not so certain. I believe that we see, know and feel the value of what will be lost.
If we respond to the retailers strategy of enticing us with promises of bargains and limited supplies our Thanksgiving Day will begin to look, sound and smell much differently. No longer will there be the conglomeration of divine aromas of various dishes that take love and time to compose. They may instead be replaced with the distasteful smell of a microwaved dinner hurriedly prepared before rushing off to the Black Thurs–er Friday sale. The bellowing laughter, the chatter of loved ones that fill the rooms will be replaced with the sounds of cash registers, and the inevitable grating sounds of angry people arguing over prices and fighting over merchandise. The pitter-patter of the excited feet of delighted children scuttling through rooms will be replaced with the invasive cries of children screaming for toys that are not on their parents Black Friday shopping lists. Cell phones beeping with texts, Instagram, Vine and Facebook notifications alerting of items gained and lost will supplant the welcome sounds of clanking pots and pans, silverware the clinking of glasses and dishes which build our anticipation of the Thanksgiving feast and the sincere and heartfelt grace that precedes it.
Should we allow Thanksgiving to continue to fade to Black Friday we will be besieged with feelings of disappointment for the almost inevitable advent of not getting everything on a shopping list; having just missed it to the person in front of us. Anger over long lines, anxiety and aggravation over crowded stores, full parking lots and other anxious and aggravated people will come to supplant the deep feelings of nostalgia and heart-warming moments that come as the family reminisces on years gone by and family members gone on, appreciation for the love that fills the home, gratitude for family and friends- acceptance of their imperfections and grateful for their presence-Thankfulness. Yes, retailers will offer merchandise at “unbeatable” prices as they begin their Black Friday sales on Thanksgiving Day, but in exchange for irretrievable time spent with loved ones and of giving of thanks to a deserving God, the cost for indulging is far too high.
By Jason L Ward