I went shopping Thursday evening and I don’t feel guilty. Many would have me feel guilty because they find Black Friday immoral and Thanksgiving night sales even more so.
I and many of my colleagues seek to give voice to the masses who are trapped by social ills. One such trapping is an employee’s requirement to work while consumers take advantage of early Christmas shopping. Profits have driven stores to add more and more hours to the first shopping weekend of the holiday season. Meanwhile, workers have less of a holiday to rest. Some Walmart employees picketed for their right to a decent work schedule.
Retail workers should be able to enjoy their holiday and not have to sacrifice their family time to our addiction to good sales. Black Friday is bad enough but encroaching on the Thanksgiving holiday is too far. Black Friday can be void of decency and filled with frenzied fighting over Barbie dolls and gaming systems. Part of the stigma of Black Friday sales is that it leads people to spend more than they have and charge up credit cards to spoil children or keep up with other people’s gift giving.
I have to say that Thanksgiving night at Walmart was nothing of the scene of evil that its made out to be. I actually had a good experience Thursday evening.
I went for a TV that was on sale. It was a really good deal. I had been thinking about buying a new TV for several weeks and wanted a new one for a couple years. The TV I had was a big tube TV that was 9 years old and as deep as it is wide. And, I paid cash for the new TV. I don’t feel guilty about going shopping on Thursday night because I did not give over to the consumerism that plagues the weekend.
Since, I hadn’t been shopping on Black Friday before I wasn’t sure how the shopping event of the year worked. The sales ad for Walmart said the store opened at 8 pm. I thought I might need to get in line to get into the store so I got to Walmart at 7:30. To my surprise, the store was already open and people already had shopping carts full of stuff. I was confused.
As I walked into the store, I was greeted by a Walmart worker in a fluorescent yellow vest who gave me a map of the store showing where each of the big sale items were located. There isn’t enough room in the Electronics department for all the great deals, so I found the line for the TV I wanted in the Sporting Goods department.
I was so excited to find that I was only 10th in line for the TV. I was confident to get what I wanted with only 20 minutes to wait. I was pretty proud of myself for my successful shopping trip. But, my excitement soon fizzled.
Turns out, I was so excited about the sale price of the TV I didn’t read the fine print that said the TV wasn’t available until 10pm. I found this out at 8 pm when we weren’t getting our TVs. Now, I had to consider whether or not the deal was worth another 2 hours of my time. I decided I had nothing better to do so stayed.
There is a sense of community built around people standing in line for 2 ½ hours for a TV. I was behind one woman who was holding a place in line for her daughter. From time to time, her daughter would come back with an arm full of items, place them in the cart and venture back out to find more of the items on her list. The woman I was waiting with was doing it for her grandson so he could have a good Christmas because of all the good deals his mother found at Walmart that night.
The girl behind me was also holding a spot in line. We had a really interesting conversation. She is a 19 year old girl who works at a day care center while she goes to school. She lives with a friend and her husband. Her and her mother have been fighting because she wants to be an adult and her mom isn’t ready for her to be an adult.
Now, this girl has an interesting perspective on the shopping night. I wish I would have gotten her name. I missed her name but saw a picture of the cute heels she wore to Thanksgiving dinner with her family. She had come shopping with her roommate. She just wanted a DVD that was on sale for $5.
Her roommate, on the other hand, was the epitome of the Black Friday consumerist. She was going back and forth to her cart with random stuff, just stuff that was on sale but not on any shopping list. My waiting line companion called her friend out for impulse buying. Her roommate had gotten caught up in the frenzy of great deals that makes Black Friday dangerous.
The true problem with Black Friday is consumerism. Some employees working on Thanksgiving day are praised for sacrificing their holiday to work so we can run into a grocery store for the forgotten items on our grocery list that are necessary for a great Thanksgiving feast or gassing up the car to get over the bridge and through the woods to grandma’s house while others are defended against the necessity of working Thursday evening for the beginning of Black Friday doorbusters. The difference between the two groups’ sacrifice is consumerism.
Consumerism is something to be considered at this time of year. That may be difficult to do on the Sunday between Black Friday and cyber Monday.
When we control our need to collect more and more stuff, we can get the holiday season under control and keep Christ at the center. We can make Advent a less hurried and stressful season. Our Christmas giving can be gifts given with thanks. We won’t over-extend ourselves at a time when we should be reflecting on how we can make room in the inn of our hearts for the coming Christ child, the coming king.
I have often said Jesus was not the king that many expected. He was not the king to restore the nation of Israel and return a king of the line of David to the throne. So, what type of king is Jesus?
He came to establish the kingdom of God. What does the king of God’s kingdom do to reign over God’s people?
These are questions that are good to ask as we approach the season when we expect the Christ child to be born. What will He do? Who is He?
Christ is the One who turns our attention to community and away from our need to collect stuff. When Christ is King of our lives, we are focused on the needs of the community. When we lose perspective, consumerism consumes us.
May we begin Advent focused on Christ the King.
May our lives be evident that He is our King.