Friday, November 26, 2021

Black Friday and Giving Tuesday



 “If the only prayer you said was, “Thank you”, that would be enough.”     

                                       Meister Eckhart           

  “Piglet noticed that even though he had a Very Small Heart, it could hold a rather large amount of Gratitude.”      

                                      A.A. Milne, Winnie-the-Pooh  

“Do not spoil what you have by desiring what you have not; what you now have was once among the things you only hoped for"                                                                             Epicurus  

(This is about Thanksgiving, Black Friday, and more importantly, Giving Tuesday. However you celebrated it, I hope each of you had a thoughtful and joyous Thanksgiving.)  

   Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday of the year. This holiday is all about things that really please me: good food, being around people in a joyful and happy setting, reflection, and expressing gratitude for what I have and for where I am in my life. The relative lack of advertising and the tiny focus on what to buy when compared to Christmas gives me an opportunity to focus more on the day itself and to think about what the holiday is supposed to mean. In that light, I get a chance to look beyond myself and to acknowledge all the people, things and circumstances that are a part of my life that I had little, if anything, to do with. Particularly given the changes in my life over the last three and a half years, I am incredibly aware of the value and wonder of family, friends, neighbors, and colleagues. I have been supported and held up by many different people, and this day, Thanksgiving, is a day for me to join with many other people to formally acknowledge and embrace the fact that without each of them my life would not be as rich, as joyous or as full as it is. How and why it happens as it does is something that is in beyond me, but I notice and am eternally grateful. I try to live a life of gratitude on a regular basis, but I am glad that we have a day devoted to it.  

  This "giving of thanks" has always been a human and universal thing; it is probably a human need. It has happened in every part of the world, in every culture, and in every era. Of course, it can be hard to hold on to that feeling of gratitude in our modern super-charged civilization; we need to keep moving and get on to the next thing. For several weeks now we have been bombarded with advertisements for “Black Friday’ and “Cyber Monday” sales and today that starts. This has always been a season of heightened shopping since the 1920’s, and it was so even during the Great Depression. And the Friday after Thanksgiving always kicked it off.  That day came to be known as, "Black Friday” in the 1950’s when the combination of holiday sales, football games, and drunkenness often produced riotous mobs and crowds in the shopping areas of Philadelphia. It started with a negative connotation; the police called it, “Black Friday,” complaining about having to work so much overtime to deal with the crowds. Crowds of people on the streets were not necessarily considered a good thing at that time. Eventually the riotousness died down, people saw that crowds of shoppers helped the economy, and the phrase took on its current, more positive meaning relating to commerce. “Cyber Monday” is a relatively recent idea; it came into being in 2005 as a marketing company’s idea to build on and accelerate the growth of online shopping. It has become very successful, taking in nearly 11 billion dollars last year.   

   This move past gratitude into commerce will be a part of our culture for years to come. It is especially true now in the wake of the economic challenges brought forth by the pandemic. We are in a time when our economy seems fragile, and we seem to need to “jump start” it. But there is a way to extend that feeling of gratitude, though, even in the midst of so much unadulterated commerce. “Giving Tuesday” is such a way.  

   Due in part to year end concerns about tax deductions, about 50% of all charitable giving in the US occurs in the last three months of the year. This realization led to the 2012 creation of “Giving Tuesday,” a day of donations to fund good, charitable causes following the excesses of Black Friday and Cyber Monday. The founders wanted people to focus on extending the Thanksgiving feeling of gratitude by following a weekend shopping spree with giving to help others and to support good causes. The idea quickly took off, and it is now an international movement.  It even has its own website- which serves as a conduit to connect groups, causes, organizations and individuals. The website has history, tools to get organized, and connections to local movements from around the world. So that feeling of gratitude and giving can go on beyond Thursday. It can co-exist with the shopping frenzy as we combine to support causes the endeavor to make the world a little better. We can give back and give forward.  

    However you celebrated Thanksgiving, I hope that you had the chance to reflect on people, situations and things for which you can be truly thankful. Even if things are tough, we all have some things, people, memories, and/ or moments for which we can be grateful. Here's hoping we were all able slow down enough to really acknowledge those things and to discover the quiet pleasure and joy in giving thanks. And please remember, “Giving Tuesday.”

No comments:

Post a Comment