Thanksgiving is just a holiday to get through.
Face the facts: no matter how many seemingly grateful speeches are given about what your sweater-encased relatives are thankful for, they are mostly looking to rush through it. While devouring food surrounded by loved ones is a fine way to pass the time, not many truly take the time to appreciate what they’re blessed with simply because they’re focused on what comes next: Christmas (Mr. Conner would be saying, “Poor pilgrims!” right about now).
My family, however, has always thought of Thanksgiving as a time to give back. For the past few years, the Marshall clan has piled into our minivan and trekked downtown to the Duke Energy Convention Center for an event called “Fall Feast“, put on by City Gospel Mission. The goal is to use the abundance of resources we often take for granted to provide for the needs of people in our community: things like a warm Thanksgiving meal (complete with turkey, mashed potatoes, stuffing, pie, etc.), a fluffy winter coat, and vaccinations. I worked with the children, constructing arts and crafts and guiding them through giant inflatables. Despite the fact that some of these people didn’t even have a home, every single being who sat in the massive conference room had a smile on their face, truly thankful for everything they were blessed with. It was refreshing.
This year, the program upped their volunteer age to 18, so my family took the more traditional route; we roasted up a bird and sat down to a carb-filled (yet delicious!) meal, accompanied by a handful of relatives. The turkey-talk was meaningful and heartfelt, as I always remembered it had been when I was younger, but as hours dragged on and grandparents began to leave, my dad and brother flipped on the TV for football and I noticed the media beginning to explode with commercials featuring jolly ole’ St. Nick. Then, my mother, sister, grandmother and I decided to try another Thanksgiving first: Black Friday shopping.
The first thing that entered my mind as we drove to Target was how silly it seemed to call it “Black Friday shopping” when it was still technically Thursday. The second thing that entered my mind was how ridiculous it was that a cop car was parked on the sidewalk while a policeman stood on duty, keeping a cautious eye for a riot over an Elsa Barbie doll. The third thing that entered my mind was how this situation vaguely reminded me of Disney World. There were shoppers weaving in and out of about ten aisles, creating a two hour wait, give or take. Rendering this attempt useless, we ventured to Kohl’s, where the line was only slightly better, but tracked our progress with signs chirping on blindingly bright green and red poster board that we were “15 minutes away from checkout”! Rather than being rewarded by Space Mountain or Mickey Mouse at the end of a never-ending queue, however, we were greeted by a very exhausted sales rep, lethargically scanning items and discussing the pecan pie she was currently digesting. After hitting up the shops again today with my whole family, I observed some malicious human nature, including a very angry father ready to fight us over a parking spot. While I enjoy saving a buck as much as the next minimum-wage earning teenager, all this hassle and stress seemed silly.
This situation could be seen as a sad commentary on the over-consumerism of our society or how materialistic Christmas has become, and while both are true, what I found truly disturbing is how Americans can huddle around a home-cooked dinner and proclaim all the things they are blessed with, but will maul each other over a Crock Pot marked down a couple dollars only hours later.
I wish that everyone had the experience I had of being able to serve–only then can you get real perspective on how blessed we are. Maybe then people would stop being so focused on themselves and material items and try keeping the “thanks” in “Thanksgiving”.
(Side note: Saturday, November 29, is Buy Nothing Day in the UK. While it does not take place in the America, it’s purpose is universal. It challenges consumers to try to go a day without buying items. Ironically, it follows Black Friday).