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  • Writer's pictureBill Stauffer

Gratitude Friday 11-25-22 – Black Friday 2022

I have never even once shopped for something at a store on Black Friday. I have long avoided the throngs of shoppers queuing up for the best deals on this year’s consumer must have items. I know people for whom this is an annual ritual. I understand it can be family bonding time. A shared activity that families participate in. It also can make a lot of sense to try and get the best deals on things for your loved ones in times when prices are so high on everything we use. It is just not an activity I have ever really had an interest in pursuing.

For me, the Thanksgiving Holiday is several days off in a row to decompress and relax. Elbowing people out of the way for a gadget is just not my thing. Thinking back, some of my fondest memories of Black Fridays are of hanging out with family or going for a late November walk in the woods. There are lot of alternatives. Here is a link to things to do other than shopping. Most of ideas on the list involve giving or spending time with loved ones. Memories last longer than a retail bargain. We should consider that more stuff does not make us happier, although the underlying notion of doing something for another person seems well grounded, maybe we don’t need to go overboard as we tend to do.

I wonder if we have seen the passing of this legendary day of retail consumerism. Its heyday passing on as Cyber Monday takes hold and the decay of our Malls. I found this article about the Death of the American Shopping Mall that claims that out of the 1,000 malls we have in the US today, one in four will close in the next few years. It is worth opening just to look at the pictures. They are dying off because we can shop in other ways now, hence the new day of consumer observance, Cyber Monday. Malls became a thing early in my life. I recall the arc of the Malls in my area. I watched them get built in the 70s, saw how they were essentially the centers of our community through the 80s and 90s and their steady decline over the last generation. Their heyday for me was probably the early 80s, when bands of youth in my age group would wander around in small groups looking for something to do on a Friday night.

Julie and I do less Holiday shopping then ever. Over the years, we have tried to shop at small mom and pop places, feeling like supporting local merchants was something worth the effort. If you are interested in supporting small business I found this link to a group called Independent We Stand, a directory of Main Street small businesses. Having seen the rise of Malls in my life, I also watched the stress that placed on small family-owned business. While we see the graveyards of the American Mall, to be replaced by these huge even more dehumanizing warehouses where people work like machines to fulfill our consumer desires at the click of a button while we are isolated in our houses. It all has huge consequences for the way we live and work. It is sort of weird when you step back and consider it all.

Don’t get me wrong, we have stuff. Lots of it. At times, I suspect too much. Stuff can get burdensome. Last summer we did a housecleaning and got rid of some piles of old things. It felt good. When I think about the possessions that mean the most to me, they are things that help me have experiences versus consumer name brand items. I love my binoculars as much as the day I bought them, they help me experience nature in ways I could not without them. The other two favored items would be my camera and my e-bike. Things that help me get out of the concrete world and into the world of swamps and mountain ridges. They are more tools to experiences than just things, at least to me.

My post pandemic hope is that we revalue relationships and experiences over things. Julie and I talk about this often. One of the most joyful things for us is having a meal and a leisurely conversation with another couple. We could not have such occasions over the pandemic, and so it has been really great to have a few opportunities to do so over the last few months. They were events that could not be had at any price during the lockdown. They are indeed priceless.

So, this long weekend, I will be reflecting on the fact that I am a lottery winner of life. Recovery provided me a second chance to make the most of the ride. As a result, I have more than enough stuff. I have my health, food, shelter and warmth. None of these things are a given. Whatever your holiday ritual, I wish you well. Perhaps the greatest lesson on a day of consumerism is that one gets more from giving than getting. As we live in a society buried in a pile of stuff but not particularly happy, this may be a lesson we want to more fully consider by sharing experiences rather than things.

If the weather cooperates, I may go out in the woods this weekend and feel the connection with nature. To observe the passage of the season and reflect on the fact that I am here to be a part of it all for another trip around the sun. I am grateful for that, as well as the dinners we have planned and hanging out with Julie. Meaningful things to me. I hope you have an opportunity to do something meaningful as well!

What are you grateful for today?

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