Tag Archives: Thanksgiving

Thankful I’ll be Home on Black Friday

Disclaimer: I begrudge no one the experience of shopping on Black Friday. If that’s your thing or your holiday tradition, go for it. To each his or her own.

I, however, won’t be engaging in any retail recreation or therapy on the day after Thanksgiving for several reasons that range from ethics and justice to simplicity and supporting local businesses. I’m thankful to be able to opt out of the consumer hamster wheel and choose a different way to spend the day. Here are my reasons.

1. Because we keep Christmas giving simple, there is no need to rush out and save a few cents (which is generally what it amounts to once the value of my time and fossil fuel is figured in). I don’t take pleasure in shopping, so there is particular incentive to hold this day sacrosanct for consumer activities. I would much rather stay home and read, write, play games, or watch a movie.

2. I find myself resenting the retail world’s ever-increasing competition to be the first, the earliest, and the most sensational. You can now shop Black Friday deals before the day even officially arrives. I find it equally annoying that the Halloween candy was competing for space with Christmas decorations before the little witches and goblins had a chance to don their costumes.

3. It’s pretty tough to balance giving thanks for abundant blessings one day and then obsessing over wants before the sun rises on a new morning. Whatever happened to being content? Or even simply letting your food settle before thinking about what to consume next? We in North America are incredibly blessed. Why not savor those blessings a little longer?

4. When I do shop, I prefer to do so locally, supporting independent businesses whenever possible. I also like to give gifts that are consumable, practical, or revolve around time and experiences. We make our own jellies and other canned goods to give. Other good options are handmade soaps, candles, plants, and wearable art. Best of all are gifts of time: concert passes, a certificate for dinner and a movie, or a coffee shop gift certificate. My favorite gift last year was a $5 stainless steel serving spoon. Hey, it gets used almost every day, and I get to tell the gifter repeatedly how much I like it!

5. Finally, I’m just stubborn enough and of an un-consumer mindset to resent being told what’s a great deal and what I simply can’t live without. Now that we don’t have television we get to opt out of a lot of the warm, snuggly holiday advertisements. Bah! Humbug! (Note: I direct that last Dickens-esque comment only to the commercial consumption machine and its minions–not to any holiday celebration.)

So, what alternatives exist to falling into the Black Friday black hole?

1. Just don’t do it. Plan a day of leftovers, lounging, sports, hunting, or hiking (if the weather allows). Spend time with family and friends. Give your children or grandchildren an entire day of your time. Take a little time to write letters, Skype, or phone the ones you love who live far from home.

2. Gather a group of friends and family members for a crafting day, bake-a-thon, or craft gift exchange. Make gifts together or barter and exchange for handmade gifts to give. You’ll have a blast, save money, and support one another’s artistic endeavors.

3. Declare a do-nothing pampering day. Take a long bubble bath. Eat fair-trade organic chocolate. Drink good fair trade coffee or tea. Stay in your pajamas all day long. Read that book you’ve been putting off. Give your spouse or significant other a massage. Do whatever brings you bliss. Remember that self-care is important, too. Hey, at least you won’t risk being mowed down in the quest for a limited edition Furby or the latest i-whatever!

4. Give of yourself. Volunteer at your local soup kitchen. Host a coat, glove, and hat drive. Collect non-perishables for the local food bank. Be creative and some way to give to others rather than to consume.

If you must shop on this most unholy of retail days, consider these alternatives:

4. Hit up the local Goodwill, Salvation Army, or consignment shops. See what perfectly wonderful treasures you might find for friends and family who support your un-consumer predilections and who find joy in preventing new additions to the consumer stream.

5. Shop locally. Go to your local farmer’s market, boutiques, or art galleries and support your local economy. Pay particular attention to selecting fairly traded, sustainable, and locally made items. Buy consumables if possible. Refuse to set foot in any big box or chain store for at least this one day.

6. If you simply must shop the major consumer retailers, consider carefully planning only what you need to purchase and make those purchases online. My super-bargainista friend Melissa tells me you can get almost anything at Black Friday prices that way. She would know because she is amazing at finding excellent deals. A major part of the reason she shops like this is to give to those in need and support local charities.

Finally, remember that there are very few real bargains. Somebody pays somewhere along the consumer chain. It may be that underpaid factory worker in China, or it may be the planet from the fossil fuel emissions expended to tote said “bargain” halfway around the world. It may be the big box store employee who gets just enough hours to prevent him or her from qualifying for benefits, or it may be you who supports government subsidies for these workers through your taxes. It might even be the person who receives the gift and finds out that corners were cut in the quality of the item to accommodate the supposed bargain price.

When you must consume, do your best to consumer justly, minimally, wisely, and thoughtfully. Make your precious resources count as best you can. Waste not, want not, and love your neighbor as yourself.

What ideas do you have for countering the Black Friday consumption monster?

Photos by Mike Licht, NotionsCapital.com, KayOne73. glindsay65, bradley j, and Breibeest. Thanks!

Day One: Bye, Bye Books & Thank You, Mom

My forehead smudged by a dusty cross and the words of the prophet Joel ringing in my ears, I completed day one of my Lenten journey and kick-started my 40/40/40  plan.

Honoring Relationships

I have a list of way more than 40 people I want to thank. I started with my mother; after all, she gave me life and taught me the majority of my life lessons. She’s also set a dandy example when it comes to faith, strength, giving, and compassion. I’m lucky she’s my mom!

Giving Possessions

I decided the first possessions I need to let go of are books. I found half a dozen books I can live without, and instead of offering them for trade on Paperbackswap.com, I am taking them to our local library for their used book sale. I kind of figured it would be cheating to put them up for trade and bring more books into the house when I’m trying to divest myself of stuff.

Thanksgiving

I am thankful for our Ash Wednesday service tonight. It is one of the most meaningful worship services of the year for me. I am quite partial to the lessons appointed for this day, and the liturgy is moving.

I also had a good time burning last years palms with my husband. He had the wonderful idea of using a propane torch and a tin can. It was efficient, quick, and didn’t smell anything up too badly (especially since we had a strong wind today).  I’m thankful we can share parts of our ministry with each other.

How about you? If you keep Lent, how did you start off the season?

Leaning into Lent: Thankful for Donuts and Dust

My daughter and I went to see a completely brainless but funny romantic comedy tonight (gotta love $5 movie Tuesdays) and split a bag of donuts in celebration of Fastnacht (Shrove Tuesday), so I suppose I’m officially ready for Lent to begin tomorrow with an Ash Wednesday smudge on the forehead. All kidding aside, I look forward to Lent each year. I like the disciplines of reflection and intentionality that are a part of the 40 days, and I appreciate the opportunity to slow down a little bit and think about my relationship with God, humankind, and creation.

I have long since passed the days of contemplating the “giving-up goodies” aspect associated with this penitential season. Instead, each year I try to think carefully about how I can be more aware — to be conscious of my choices and how my decisions ripple outward in impact.

As a United States citizen, even one who falls solidly in the shrinking middle class, I am among the world’s wealthiest people. I have much, much more than I need, so to my way of thinking that makes me all the more responsible for my consumption. It isn’t fair for me as a person of faith to randomly exercise my privilege without thinking how my choices affect my neighbors both near and far.

Just because I have a laptop (for work), a cell phone (old school freebie), an iPod, digital camera and Nook (hand-me-downs from dear daughters), and a car (a sensible compact sedan) doesn’t make me any brighter, better, or more worthy. It simply means that by accident of birth, I lucked into living in a part of the world that makes it relatively easy to amass stuff, to have access to education and healthcare, and to enjoy an abundance of freedoms.

No, there will be no blithe giving up of something like chocolate or desserts or coffee or television for me. This year I’m leaning into Lent as I would a strong north wind. I hope to use these days and my personal meditation and devotions to contemplate issues of justice, consumption, and equity. Sure,I try to do this on a daily basis, but I want to be intentional about it.

Supposedly it takes about 21 days to change a habit, so I figure 40 days + Sundays should give me plenty of time to shed stuff and count my blessings; hopefully, in doing so, I will experience a lasting change and move a little closer toward my goal of minimalism.

Here’s the plan. Each day during Lent I will commit to giving away one possession. I’ll also spend some time thinking about why I am thankful to be able to share that possession with someone else. Finally, I will tell someone I care about each and every day why I value that person.

So, 40 days – 40 possessions + 40 thanksgivings + honoring 40 relationship = an intentional Lenten discipline. I invite you to join me on the journey and to share how you will be leaning into Lent this year.

I look forward to receiving that ashen cross-shaped ashen smudge tomorrow. For I am dust, I am connected to this earth in a fundamental and elemental way. Thanks to the cross, I am also connected to the God that created, loves, and cherishes all people and all this earth. Donuts are dandy, but I am particularly thankful for dust.

Photos by khawkins04 and Sara Korf used under Creative Commons License. Thanks!

 

Grace: For all Occasions

You say grace before meals. All right. But I say grace before the concert and the opera, and grace before the play and pantomime, and grace before I open a book, and grace before sketching, painting, swimming, fencing, boxing, walking, playing, dancing and grace before I dip the pen in the ink.

~G.K. Chesterton

Yes, saying grace isn’t just for meals and bedtime. May every breath you take be a hymn of praise and a prayer of thanksgiving. Saying grace is always appropriate and an integral part of thanks-living. Sprinkle your prayers as liberally as your would salt and pepper over the gifts of your day.

Sabbath blessings!

(Photo by Mr. Kris used under Creative Commons License. Thanks! Be sure to click the link and read the explanation for the photo. It’s powerful!)

 

Thankful for Safe Travel

It’s late…or early, depending on how you look at the wee hours after midnight. We arrived at my sister-in-law’s house a few minutes ago, and I am truly thankful for safe travel.

What a day! We got a really late start for our journey to Rhode Island, and this year we had two vehicles in our “mini-caravan.” It was dark before we left the lights of Harrisburg behind us. We stopped in Allentown at the Taco Bell and did some serious damage in terms of the quantities of food devoured. The next stop was a Starbuck’s in New Jersey for a jolt of java, followed by a trip to the nearby grocery to pick up the toiletries we’d all forgotten to bring. Well, everybody but my husband Mr. Boy Scout, that is. We made a final stop for gas in Connecticut (and Dunkin’ Donuts) before cruising down the highway for the final leg to our destination outside of Providence. Overall, traffic was heavy but tolerable, and the weather cleared up just in time. Whew!

The kids are wired, and the adults are tired. It’s time for a few hours of sleep in a comfortable bed. First, however, we’ll take time to pray and give thanks for a long but safe journey. It’s good to be among family, although it’s sad that we can’t be with all of our family.

Night, ya’ll! Happy Thanksgiving!

Photo by John Trainor used under Creative Commons License. Thanks!

Thankful to “Fall Back”

This is one of my favorite days of the year–that wonderful, amazing, spectacular Sunday when we all collect and extra hour of shut-eye. I know that may sound silly, but it feels like such a luxury to spend those extra 60 minutes in slumber. Even if I’m sort of awake or the dogs are whining to be fed, it still feels like I have somehow cheated time.

Let me explain. I am not a morning person to begin with, so bounding bright-eyed and bushy-tailed out of bed with the first crow of that annoying rooster down the street is not in my frame of reference. For me, morning usually involves stumbling out of bed and not feeling human until ingesting a large cup of coffee.

Sleep is something most of us fail to get enough of anyhow, and it is one of the most important things we can do to take good care of ourselves. Lack of sleep can wreak havoc with your health. According to researchers from the University of Chicago Medical Center, chronic sleep loss can “reduce the capacity of even young adults to perform basic metabolic functions such as processing and storing carbohydrates or regulating hormone secretion” (The Lancet, October 23, 1999). In fact these effects are so significant that the researchers noted “changes that resembled the effects of advanced age or the early stages of diabetes–after less than one week.”

It’s a battle to get seven or eight hours of quality sleep each night, but now that I understand the sleep loss/health connection and have experienced its effects first hand through two graduate degrees and a bout with cancer, I really try to be a better steward of my body and mind. After all, each day–even each breath–is a gift of God. We must do our part to attend to and be grateful for the gift of life and health.

That’s why I am thankful to “fall back” one day each year and give thanks for the gift of sleep. Rest well, friends! Your health and maybe even your life depend on it!

Zzzzzzzzzz……….

Photo by Alan Cleaver used under Creative Commons License. Thanks!