It’s that time of year again when people give thanks with one breath and complain about retailers in the next. It seems there’s always something to be unhappy about when it comes to the people who sell us our stuff, especially around the holidays.
This year, most of the grumbling has been about the latest scandal in retail. Not only are more and more stores opening for Thanksgiving, but businesses are luring honest-to-goodness Americans away from their family dinners with Black Friday prices.
Black Friday prices on Thanksgiving? What is the world coming to!
Apparently, there are many reasons we should stand strong against this trend. One of the loudest arguments is the fact that no one should have to work on Thanksgiving. Everyone deserves a day to spend with family, and those greedy corporations are robbing their employees of their turkey rights just to make a buck.
That’s a lovely sentiment. I do not think any worker should be obligated to come in on Thanksgiving when the turkey is roasting away at home.
It’s just too bad we’re so inconsistent about it. We get ourselves in a tizzy over the fact that Walmart employees have to work on Thanksgiving while we sit at home flipping through the channels of football on TV. We watch the Thanksgiving Day parade and the half-time shows as if none of those people are working or away from their families on Thanksgiving.
Well, that’s different, we say, because that’s not commercialism, and really, that’s what we’re against. It’s the commercialism. We don’t want anyone sacrificing family in order to make money.
Why do you think Al Roker sits out in the cold and broadcasts the Macy’s parade every year? Why do you think the football coaches and players and cheerleaders and hotdog sellers and bathroom cleaners get up and make sure the big game goes off without a hitch?
They do it for money, on Thanksgiving, away from their families, and we support them all the way.
But it’s different, we say, to actually go out and shop on Thanksgiving! That proves that some people are more interested in getting a deal than spending time with their loved ones, and that’s just terrible. They’re probably not even grateful.
Well, I’m convinced. I’m not working on Thanksgiving.
I mean, I’m not getting paid to slave away in the kitchen with a cold bird. I’m also not planning to shop (I’ve got a date with the aforementioned cold bird, after all). I’d feel really good about that except for one problem: I don’t think my Thanksgiving choices make me any more of a grateful, family-centered person than the woman who hits Walmart at 3 am.
Nor do I think Americans are going to turn into the Monsters of Materialism because they get an extra shopping day. Most of America is already there.
It seems to me that we’re all overacting a little bit about this whole shopping-on-Thanksgiving thing. It’s not like Thanksgiving is a sacred institution (it was ordained by Congress, after all).
Don’t get me wrong. Thanksgiving is a good day, and a lovely idea, but it’s not gospel, and we shouldn’t treat it like it is. You’re not going to earn extra gold stars in your heavenly crown if you stay home and eat turkey and think thankful thoughts this Thursday. I dare say, you could even celebrate on Friday instead of Thursday and remain just as holy.
Conversely, standing out in front of Best Buy for a few hours before the kids wake up in order to get a good deal on a TV does not necessarily make you a bad person, any more than sitting in front of your TV on Thanksgiving makes you a bad person.
It kind of depends on what’s going on in your heart (FYI: always). You can have a pretty ugly heart while mixing up the cranberry sauce. And you can be perfectly joyful and godly while shopping on Thanksgiving.
Maybe we should all settle down a little bit and stop equating Black Thursday with a moral apocalypse. After all, our world is crumbling under the weight of bigger problems—bigger moral problems—than retailers who slash prices for Thanksgiving and the people who fall for it. Maybe, if we let go of our turkey-induced legalism, we will notice.
That is what Thanksgiving is all about, isn’t it? Noticing. We should be so grateful for what God has done for us that it overflows into actions for others and shows up in how we treat our family and how we love our neighbors. Even the shoppers.
But too often, we care more about how people spend their holidays than with what’s going on in their lives.
“It’s just wrong to shop on Thanksgiving, and all the people who do it are bad. The end.”
We don’t consider the veteran who needs to work on Thanksgiving just to pay the bills or the mom who has to spend Thanksgiving alone because her kids are with their dad. We don’t think about the fact that sometimes, holidays at home are hard and it’s easier to spend the time walking a store aisle than navigating the eggshells around the dinner table.
What if that guy in line at Best Buy is there because his apartment is lonely this time of year, and for all the church people he knows, not one of them invited him to share the day with them?
Sure, some of the shoppers are materialistic jerks. But before cluck our tongues and say these people have their priorities mixed up, maybe we should think first. Maybe the Thanksgiving shoppers aren’t the ones with the problem.
Maybe we are.
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