Maybe it’s a sport in your family. Some people play flag football or ultimate frisbee to burn off the pie and stuffing, but y’all lace up for a 100-yard-dash through Best Buy and Home Depot. Maybe it’s a bonding thing. Or maybe it’s the only day that you can afford to buy things like new shoes for your children. Maybe you’ve got your reasons, and they are none of my business. I’m not judging. You go do what you’ve got to do, and I’m not the boss of you. I hope that all will hear the following in the spirit in which it’s intended—which is a little bit of spiritual and ethical truth-telling, but mostly me being a smart-ass and the Grinch of Black Friday.
Over the past years, I’ve become more and more disturbed by this day (which I recently heard a radio personality call an “orgy of consumerism”). I’ve never been much of a shopper, and especially avoid big box stores and malls from mid-November until after January 2. The one year that I lived right next door to a mall and some friends dragged me over on the dreaded day, I wound up curled in a fetal position on a bench near the Orange Julius, telling them to collect me on their way out. It is not just the crowd that gets to me. It is the sensory overload, and the endless miles of meaningless junk that we are somehow supposed to NEED, just because it is 40% off. It is the sense that, for one long stretch of commercial melodrama, our personhood is somehow reduced to our credit card capacity. And it is all made worse by the music and decor that is supposed to make all the madness seem somehow joyful. For me, it just adds up to a bunch of reasons to stay home. Again, they don’t have to be YOUR reasons… But if you are looking for excuses to skip all the madness this year, here are a few:
- The day after Thanksgiving is its own little-known but high holy holiday. It is PIE FOR BREAKFAST FRIDAY. While those other suckers are camped out in front of ToysR’Us and ready to fight to the death over the last Elsa doll, YOU could be home in your sweatpants, sipping on coffee, reading a magazine and enjoying PIE FOR BREAKFAST. With some light holiday music playing in the background. Because it is now AFTER Thanksgiving, and Christmas muzak is not quite such a travesty. And speaking of your sweatpants,
- you still can’t zip your jeans after yesterday’s (multiple) indulgences… So you should a) hit the gym/trail or b) enjoy another day of sweatpants. But by NO MEANS should you suffer the indignity of trying to put on actual pants for at least another 36 hours or so.
- Just yesterday you were gathered with your family—or maybe serving the poor, or enjoying a quiet day by yourself—reflecting on all the things for which you are thankful, and the wonder of all the simple blessings in your life. That exercise of gratitude has deeply spiritual benefits. Friday’s rush to grab and get a bunch of stuff kind of negates all that good contentment you worked up. It’s like eating a bunch of pie and bacon right after an invigorating hike. Have more pie, by all means. But skip the soul crushing weight of consumption that waits around every corner of the mall.
- Because you don’t want to be in a Youtube video entitled “suburban dads fight to the death over half-priced Disney Princess costumes.”
- Because Black Friday epitomizes a complex land mine of justice issues including, but not limited to: the barely-living wage of hourly employees; the environmental implications of how much stuff we buy and give and transport and have; the poor working conditions of those who make all our stuff; and the growing economic gap between those who traffic this stuff and we who buy it. And also, there are starving children in China. And Africa. And maybe right next door. Do you really need that Christmas sweater? For your dog?
- Because after yesterday’s family gathering, you are fresh out of Xanax. And you know you would need that to brave Old Navy at 6am (shudder).
- Because Jesus. I cannot find the place in scripture where he says that WalMart is an evil black vortex, but I am pretty sure that the way of Christ and the way of Sam Walton are not the same general direction.
- Because no matter how much money you “save” today, you will continue to shop and spend throughout the month of December, and by the 23rd you’ll have forgotten what you spent today—because it’s NOVEMBER, and the credit card companies know that— and you could instead use that cash for a cruise to the Bahamas. Which you could sure use after yesterday’s family gathering, y’all.
- Because this day can put you into that hamster wheel, that spiritual sand trap known as the myth of scarcity. It shouts to you all the things that you need to be happy and whole, all the ways you have to be faster, smarter, better looking and more efficient than your neighbor… That narrative runs through our lives every day, but on Black Friday, it is reinforced as SACRAMENT. That can stick with you and your spirit all year long.
- I’m going to repeat #1 here because for me, it is the deal breaker. Coffee. Cartoons. Sweat pants. PIE FOR BREAKFAST. And a few lazy moments to start digging through the Christmas decor. Because last year’s kind of broken and mismatched stuff will be just fine once you throw some lights up. Because what we already have is almost always enough. Especially when you are remembering how grateful you were yesterday, and the day before… And especially when you are eating PIE. For breakfast.
All that said—if shopping is a different kind of exercise or experience for you than it is for me, so be it. But I challenge you to shop mindfully this year—whether you are mindful of the environment, those in need, or the impact on your own spirit—move and spend with intention. Reject the sense of scarcity that urges you towards more, more more… And instead, listen for the voice of reason and abundance that quietly whispers… enough. Enough. Enough.
Peace and Blessings, y’all. God is good. All the time.
*Photo cred: Beau Lebens, via Flickr