by Wye Huxford
Thanksgiving Day can come no later than it does this year. Last year, as the logic of "how the calendar works" suggests, it was as early as it can be. If nothing else, that makes it a bit of an issue if one uses Thanksgiving Day as the official day it is okay to put up the live Christmas tree in your house!
If you've been reading the news or watching the news, you know there is a bit of a cultural controversy about the invasion of Thanksgiving Day by the big box stores who plan to open late on Thanksgiving Day for an early Black Friday event or two. Thanksgiving may still remain the most uncluttered of our major civic holidays — but it has begun to skate on thin ice.
On the early Monday morning news in Atlanta there was a story about families who began their "camping out" at Best Buy last weekend in order to make sure they were first in line late Thursday when the store opens. Someone described it as a kind of "week-long tailgating" experience. The family said that camping out has become a "family tradition." For the first time in several years, it is pretty cold in Atlanta right now — and I just have to wonder about a family tradition that causes one to camp out in front of a big box store for over a week in very cold and, later this week, very rainy weather just to be first in line to spend money on gadgets that are nice, but certainly not necessary for life.
While the big box corporations take a beating in the public conversation about making their employees come to work Thanksgiving afternoon, the truth is they would not be doing that if we didn't camp out for a week just to be first in line to get a discounted iPad! Sure, they are after higher sales margins — but how is that more materialistic and greedy than the fact that we line up at their front doors to be part of the stampede toward saving a few dollars on our purchases? There may be a little of that old adage "the pot calling the kettle black" going on here.
Don't misunderstand — I have an iPad and an iPhone. I'm fascinated by how much technology can help me do my job more efficiently. I'm a pretty generous buyer of Christmas gifts for my family and like to find a good bargain with the best of them. I've even bought a gift or two already, though in reality I like the thrill of Christmas Eve shopping!
But camping out for a week to be first in line at Best Buy? I hope that really isn't the commentary on our culture it seems to be. I'm no psychologist, but I'm guessing there is a little bit of "I wonder if I can get on television" going on here. Maybe it is a bit of "I'm bored and lonely; let's go camp out in a parking lot." There could be some sense of "I'm using my money wisely by buying this stuff at greatly reduced prices." But that one doesn't make much sense to me when compared to giving up a week of life — maybe work — maybe Thanksgiving Dinner — maybe time with family you don't often see — all in the name of being first in a sale line for gadgets that are outdated long before the next Thanksgiving comes around.
It is pretty late in the month of November — as late as it can be and still be Thanksgiving. I've been reading the Psalms of Ascent during the weeks leading up to Thanksgiving. They have made me more mindful than ever of all that I have to be thankful for and the multiple ways in which God, "the maker of heaven and earth" engages in the lives of His people.
Psalm 121 might say it best:
The Lord watches over you —
the Lord is your shade at our right hand;
the sun will not harm you by day,
nor the moon by night.
The Lord will keep you from all harm —
he will watch over your coming and going
both now and forevermore.
If that's true, then I know that there is much more to my life than being first in line at a sale; and I know that I have much to be thankful for this Thursday. And now it's time to get the Christmas tree in place.