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  • Writer's pictureBill Stauffer

Gratitude on Black Friday 2021

Today is the last Friday in November also known as Black Friday. Thanksgiving, the day we take stock and give thanks for our bounty is now a memory. We are closing out the final weeks of 2021. Interestingly, the history of Black Friday originated out of a financial crash created by gold speculators in 1869. It was also termed that in the 1950s to describe the chaos in Philadelphia when lots of people came to watch the Army Navy game. Shoplifters would take advantage of the influx of visitors to boost goods out of retail establishments. It was not until the 1980s when it became associated with retailers make or break flurry of year-end sales. The context has changed over time, but a focus on economic gain and material consumption has remained a constant theme over the last 152 years of Black Fridays.

So today being Black Friday it a day of historic stampedes. Here in America, we line up to buy more, and far too often, people get hurt or even lose their lives to be the first to get a bargain. There is actually a web site set up to document the carnage. Trampling each other to death for a gadget that will be out of style in a heartbeat. This year, due to supply chain challenges, bargains are apparently few and far between, perhaps that will mean less holiday bargain fever. Perhaps more people will shop from their couches. While hopeful that injuries and deaths will be minimal, the newest trend of smash and grab armed groups of thieves dims those hopes and shows us how fragile our society is to anarchy.

It does seem to me that change is in the air. Recognition that there are broad inequities. Fast food service teams are walking off their jobs in unison. I get it. My first job in recovery eons ago was at a Taco Bell. Things buzzing and blaring and constant motion for pennies an hour is what these positions are all about. We don’t value such work, and our community members and friends who do these jobs live hand to mouth with no stability. This family living out of their Hyundai who have full time jobs at Walmart’s in my hometown illustrate that point. When I was growing up, these jobs were considered entry level jobs for kids in High School, not a way to earn a living. That was in another place and another time, a time when we had a nation in which the average person could have the American dream. Fairer wages for reasonable work hours. A decent standard of living now requires a couple of jobs and a 24/7 work schedule for many of us. Changing these dynamics would go a long way to improving our social determinates of health.

I am not sure how others feel, but I have been extra aware of people working around me in the service industry over the last few months. Having worked service industry jobs in my early employment years and in serving persons with addictions who often are employed in these settings, I can attest to the fact that the public is no picnic even in the best of times. We are not in the best of times. Customers can be mean and nasty and quite insensitive at best. Our workforce shortage is really hitting people employed in the service industries hard. Last week, I spent 30 minutes at line at the bank to make a deposit. When the sole worker in the bank got to me, she started to apologize as she ran from responsibility to responsibility. She had no time to even catch her breath. While it was a bummer to have to wait, I could sense the impact on her of trying to manage job responsibilities akin to Lucy on the job at a candy factory. I could see her and how rough her day was. There are probably a lot of other days just like it right now. She was overwhelmed. It wiped away my sense of frustration, I wished her well and told her I appreciated her and what she must be going through. I asked her to take a deep breath and hoped that her day got easier. Being upset at the inconvenience dissipated as I considered her plight. I see a lot of this about in the service sector and try to share a kind word of encouragement whenever possible.

We just celebrated our abundance yesterday, and today we roll right back into even more consumption. Gadgets and lots of them but less time with each other. It is really sad when you stop and think about it. Maybe one of the things that come out of our current era of turmoil is a search for something deeper in meaning than having name brand goods and material status. Maybe this is the year that we also add back in that connection piece. Spending time with loved ones we have been isolated from. Helping each other rather than gaining status over others. Understanding what we have missed and filling this void with community. That whole peace on earth thing seems elusive right now, but perhaps not so undoable if we focus on peace within ourselves and peace with those around us. What would happen if we put peace on earth and good will to all in our daily practice? Not just shoving each other aside for the newest product in stores staffed with underpaid overworked staff who struggle with basic needs but actual connection and community.

Grateful for all of you in the service sector. Thank you for staying on the job despite all the challenges. Why do we not value service positions and front-line jobs? I salute you if you are in a service role. Grateful for recovery. Grateful that recovery helped me develop my empathy. Grateful that I have abundance of the things that are important to me, like hope, purpose, and connection. Grateful for food, shelter, and heat. I have more than I ever thought possible for me in my life.

What are you grateful for today?

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