Thursday, November 24, 2011

#113 - The Worst Day of the Year?

Now that the Thanksgiving feasting is over and tables have been cleared and food put away all over the country, we can allow our thoughts to turn to . . . shopping???

Yes, even before we finish digesting our meals it is time to turn our attention to Christmas shopping. Thanksgiving is not even over, and the Christmas advertising has begun in full force.

I've been inundated with e-mails from traditional and online retailers alike over the last several days. It's enough to make me want to say "Enough."

Regardless of where you stand on the religious and spiritual significance of Christmas, it doesn't seem too much to ask for a slight break between Thanksgiving and the start of the Christmas shopping season. At the very least, I don't think it is too much to ask that stores wait until the day after Thanksgiving before they launch their sales assaults.

Instead, we have stores opening at 10 p.m. or midnight on Thanksgiving, assuming they closed at all. (Wal-Mart's deals begin at 10 p.m. Thanksgiving night. I'll let you reach your own conclusions as to what that says about how they feel about their employees.) We barely have time to reflect on the things we are thankful for before we begin thinking about the deals we hope to snag and be thankful for.

From a time to remember and celebrate the birth of Christ (for those who are Christians) or even a time to remember and celebrate being with family (as was probably more the case in my family growing up), Christmas has become the primary profit-making season for retailers and the time of year when many of us show the worst aspects of what it is to be human.

Greed and selfishness have replaced giving, compassion, and good will as the bywords of Christmas. Christmas shopping itself has become a competition. We fight each other to grab the last doodad or whatchamacallit that next year neither we nor the recipients will recall. I personally don't think any thing is worth that much trouble.

While some will get up at midnight or four a.m. to try and save some money (but at what other cost), assuming they go to bed at all, I will be sleeping snug in my bed (without the visions of sugar plums in my head).

I am content to let others run the retail gauntlet. They are welcome to endure the bumping and bruising from other shoppers. Let them experience the disappointment of finding that the store has sold out of the item they got up early to get. I don't mind missing those deals. After all, there will be others.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

#112 - Giving Thanks

In a blog post on the eve of Thanksgiving, Neale Donald Walsch, author of the Conversations With God series of books (among others), made the unique and I thought inspired suggestion to abolish Thanksgiving as a holiday and instead make it a holy day.

While that in and of itself was enough to make me take notice, what I found unique and inspiring was a suggestion he made later in his post with regard to how Thanksgiving is celebrated:
Forget about sitting down to a big meal and offering thanks to God for all the bounty that has been received during the past year. Instead, create a new ritual. Sit down together and thank God for all the goodness that is to come.
He believes we should discuss those things in the coming year for which we are going to be thankful. In other words, looking ahead rather than looking back. As he has stated in Conversations With God:
. . . the message about gratitude is clear. It is the most powerful form of prayer. Gratitude in advance, not gratitude after the fact. This is because to thank God in advance for something is the highest form of faith. It is a statement of supreme confidence. It is the Ultimate Knowing.
Walsch goes so far as to suggest making a list and writing down all that you choose to have happen between Thanksgiving 2011 and Thanksgiving 2012 and then reading it aloud at dinner. He says doing so will give Thanksgiving a new meaning:
It will now be about Sharing and Declaring. It will be about Knowing and Growing. We grow into what we know.
I'm certainly willing to give it a try. So here is my list:
  1. I will be thankful for all of the opportunities I have in the coming year to spend time RVing and reconnecting with nature. Spending five weeks without our truck and still being without our trailer makes me realize just how precious those moments are.
  2. I will be thankful for the love and patience of my wife, Teresa. She has been and continues to be my anchor (a term I use in a good way), helping me to stay grounded and giving me someone to laugh and cry with.
  3. I will be thankful for all of my Facebook friends, people from my past and present, as well as those I have yet to meet. They help to bring to life memories of the places I've been as well as the places I still hope to see.
  4. I will be thankful for new challenges and new opportunities to grow. The last few years have been some of the best of my life in terms of growing and learning to better accept myself. I suspect the coming year will bring more of the same.
  5. I will be thankful (or at least strive to be thankful) for the challenges of dealing with a teenage autistic son. It now looks like we may have a little help with that, which I think will make life less stressful and more enjoyable for all of us.
I'm not sure those are in the format Walsch is suggesting, but hopefully they will be seen as being in the proper spirit.

Walsch concludes his blog post by suggesting that Thanksgiving should be the holiest day of the year
. . . because gratitude is the most sacred tool in the Creator’s Toolbox. With it anything can be produced, anything can be created, anything can be experienced!
I am not a Biblical scholar or a theologian, but I suspect he may be on to something. Happy Thanksgiving, everyone. Be thankful. I am.