Grateful Is As Grateful Does

I’m sure I’m not the first person to comment on the irony of Black Friday. We spend Thanksgiving counting our blessings, reaching out to family and friends and neighbors, and paying forward our bounty to those in need; the very next day our country displays the most extreme commercialism on the planet with outrageous lines, disregard for our fellow man, riots and brawls … all over STUFF.

I don’t mean to bash anyone who loves hunting for the deal or those who’ve made a fun, family tradition of it all. I come from a long line of thrifty shoppers and sale hunters, though it’s never been my cup of tea. It is just difficult to ignore the sharp contrast of gratitude one day and greed the next. 

The danger of Black Friday isn’t in the act of shopping; we all have our Christmas lists and our big ticket items we save for all year. The danger comes in the careless materialism that leads us to mania, that leads us to idolize STUFF and prioritize acquiring that STUFF over anything else, and that leads us to believe STUFF will make us (or our loved ones) happy or whole.

I say all this knowing that I am guilty of these things in my own way. That’s why we have to check ourselves whenever our inner voice starts nagging and asking “why?”

So at the end of this rant I guess I just hope we (myself included) can all strive to be more conscientious and kind consumers. Because no TV is worth harming another human being, and the value of a gift isn’t in the price tag but in the love and connection between the gifter and the receiver. 

Today is #SmallBusinessSaturday. So maybe we forgo the big businesses and their doorbusters and instead channel our commercialism back into our local communities and in support of entrepreneurs and artists and craftsmen.

Let’s support philanthropic businesses that donate to causes we care about. There are so many out there: like these, or these, or these, or try AmazonSmile or Heifer.

And maybe we shake up our Christmas lists and trade out some of the STUFF for cool experiences and memories to make together: a cooking class, movie tickets, a day trip to a museum, or a dinner date.

Or just ignore me and my ranting and do what makes you happy. As long as you ARE asking yourself, “Will this make me happy?” And really listen to the reply.

Monday Musing

I woke up this morning knowing it was going to be a bad day. I knew it before I even opened my eyes. I knew it as I mumbled and grumbled and rolled out of bed. When I left for work and opened the door to a rainy, chilly world, I felt vindicated. It was just as I suspected, a gloomy Monday.

I suffered through traffic, a glitchy printer, spilled coffee, and a paper-cut, to name a few tragedies. And as I worked through my lunch, I found myself wishing this day would go faster. Could it be the weekend already!?

Then, unexpectedly, I was asked to come along on a visit to one of my favorite alumnae of the College, a birthday visit. In my sour mood, I had completely forgotten that today was her 101st birthday. And as I sat next to this lovely woman, still brimming with humor and spit-fire in the face of illness and old age and loss, I felt ashamed.

How dare I write off an entire day because of some rain clouds? How dare I wallow over trivial inconveniences? How dare I wish away precious time when we are only blessed with so many days?

In her 101 years, there were many rainy Mondays, but I doubt that she regrets a single one. There were even days when she lost a loved one or dear friend. Of all the days to wish away, but even those days were a gift: a chance to say goodbye, to feel how deeply her heart could ache, and to find peace on the other side.

Today may not be the day for a rainbow or a holiday or a breakthrough in my life, but it is another day on this earth. As I encounter the good and the bad, I need only remember the jesting words of a very grateful 101-year old on her birthday:

“I’m glad you came today. I might not be here tomorrow!”