Thanksgiving. The most literal of holiday names. This week is all about gratitude and grace, contentment and counting our blessings, given freely and without conditions.
Until Black Friday.
Then we wait in lines for hours, trample each other at malls, mutter under our breath about “how some people act these days” and get googly-eyed at the shiniest, biggest, latest toys.
What happens in that 24-hour period that takes us from a feast of unselfish thankfulness to a shopping day so dreaded that it is known as Black?
It’s not that every Black Friday shopper is inherently greedy or materialistic. My family and I have a ritual of going shopping that Friday afternoon, though it is less of a manic drive for deals and more from a coincidental proximity to outlet malls that only comes once a year when we visit family “in the big city.”
But from both annual news reports and my years of experience people-watching in the malls of Dallas, Texas, something happens on that fateful day that motivates people to camp out in front of stores, push each other to emotional and physical limits and lash out irrationally at the same family they just gave thanks for around the table the day before. Call it the holiday rush or the hustle and bustle, but surely there has to be another option.
Of course, one obvious answer is to avoid the madness altogether. But there is a way to shop this Friday without damaging your sanity or familial relationships. Prayer.
For Christians, we don’t have to leave behind the trappings of thankfulness after its designated day because we are given a new dose of the Spirit again Friday morning as soon as we ask. We don’t have to “store up” our manna or cling to fuzzy feelings, then be disappointed when they are gone as soon as we hit a traffic jam. It all depends on how we approach the day. If we look to His purposes and focus on all He has already given us, we are free to go about our day ready to intercede for those around us.
- We can choose to think of strangers’ needs: Someone steal “your” front row parking spot? Pray that it would go to someone who needs it more than you do.
- We can choose to respond in grace and peace: Instead of feeding off the chaos and frustration around you, pray for the ability to react in love to those you encounter.
- We can choose to see inconveniences as opportunities: Slow cashier? Long line? Use the pause in the go-go-go to really see the people around you and pray for their day to be joyful, safe and peace-filled as well.
- We can choose to be intentional in our purchases: I’m not saying you have to stop and think for hours each time you buy something new, but you can use the time you spend shopping for gifts to also pray-as-you-go for the recipient and struggles they are facing in their lives.
- Bonus round: If you want to take this “redeeming Black Friday” concept a step further and shop free trade or use your purchases to engage in social justice, you can check out Dancing Upon Injustice or Raven + Lily for some ideas. This season is all about giving, after all, beginning with offering thanks for basics we take for granted that so many others lack.
So instead of focusing on money, stuff and stress, we can focus our hearts on using this week to be a blessing to others without becoming a hermit for a day. We can use our every day lives to freely give love, peace and prayer to others, even after the warm Thanksgiving feelings are gone, even after the family has gone home, even on Black Friday.