Good day, everyone. Happy Thanksgiving to all my fellow American readers and a joyous holiday season to everyone from around the globe. I just arrived to Texas to visit family. It has been a long day of travel. After we reached our final destination, we needed to travel a bit more to find a store to get some fresh groceries.
It being a major holiday and all, our only option was a Walmart located approximately a half an hour away. It was my idea of a nightmare (Walmart + Black Friday sales = violence over flat screen TVs), but we needed sustenance. And since the store is located in a very rural area, we figured it might be moderately busy with pre-Black Friday sales, but nothing too intense. WRONG!
When we arrived, we had no trouble entering the store at 5:15 pm. However, at second glance we realized that there were blockades set up, extra staff and security at every corner, and swarms of people standing with empty carts waiting. Lines and lines of people wrapped around the interior of the store. People with their hands on boxes of items that were still wrapped in cellophane on pallets. One lady had her arms and legs outstretched like a starfish, claiming four boxes on two different pallets. Some people said they had been there for hours waiting. Learning that made me sad. When did they spend time with their families? Did they even enjoy a Thanksgiving meal? It was only 5:30 pm for crying out loud.
The tension in the store could be cut with a knife. People were on their phones complaining and people waiting on the seemingly never-ending lines were beyond grumpy. One woman looked in our shopping cart and said, “You picked a hell of a time to buy food.” I wish I had the energy to reply, “Thank you, Captain Obvious. We hope you enjoy saving $10 on Isotoners in exchange for three hours of your life.”
We had to practically beg to be allowed to check out. They weren’t allowing anyone to put the sales items in their carts until 6:00 pm and therefore the registers were not open yet, so we were racing against the clock to get out of there. As we checked out, I heard several Walmart employees huddled in a team formation going over scenarios and security concerns. One employee feared being threatened or physically harmed by customers. I felt badly for the employees; the evening that would soon be unfolding would surely not be pleasant.
As we exited the store, we realized that there were people now waiting outside and there was not a single open parking spot in that entire gigantic parking lot. Thank God we made it out of there at 5:50 with 10 minutes left to spare. I lived to tell the tale.
This is the text message I sent to a friend: “The people at the local Walmart here are about to murder each other over a Homedics footbath courtesy of the factory workers in China. I never saw anything like it (other than on the news). I got out with my carrots and hummus just in the nick of time.”
The entire experience got me thinking about a hilarious yet surprisingly poignant video I had seen recently of a man in NYC, named Matthew Silver, who makes a statement (in his underwear) to people shopping: “Stop buying stuff. Love is the answer!”
According to Matthew (aka the great performer):“My role as a clown, trickster and village idiot is to parody excessive seriousness by playing with taboos, rules, and social norms. My inspiration comes from my heart. I perform for smiles and laughter, loosening people’s armor, and opening up a portal for imagination, creativity and love.”
I’m not anti-consumerism; we all need things sometimes. However, there is a difference between a need and a want. And some wants are okay, but then most of the time we just transition into excess and waste and even stupidity. How many people can actually afford all of these holiday purchases? Afford as in, not racking up consumer credit card debt.
Since I have been on a path of simplicity and genuine happiness (and even prior to now), I have noticed that I do not enjoy shopping for stuff. Even in my teens and twenties, I never enjoyed shopping. In fact, buying things stressed me out. I didn’t need any of it, especially the hole in my wallet afterwards.
This season is a time for gratitude, love, and joy – not unnecessary stress, materialism, and obscene expenses. I will not be shopping on Black Friday. To me, I would rather snuggle up with a warm blanket and a good book, watch movies, and spend time with loved ones.
There is nothing I need that I don’t already have. I will also enjoy getting crafty this year and baking yummy treats for thoughtful gifts. I have told my family that I really don’t want anything this year. If they insist, an Amazon gift card for an ebook is perfect or an experience like a family day at the movies – even better! I’ve just realized that the further I move away from stuff, the more liberated and whole I feel.
We don’t need to spend loads of money on things in an effort to show people we love them. Our time is much more valuable. In my next blog post, I will share wholesome and thoughtful ideas of crafts and homemade gifts for loved ones. For now, embrace this joyous season – the weather change, hot cocoa, holiday music, time with friends and family. If you can, consider volunteering at a local food pantry, soup kitchen, or homeless shelter. And perhaps instead of buying more stuff this year, you can shop your house for items you can donate to those who are less fortunate. There is no need to subject yourself to unnecessary stress or go into debt this season. This is a time to share in the spirit of love, gratitude, and kindness.
So what’s the takeaway message? “Love is the answer. Stop buying stuff.”