Thursday, November 29, 2007

A Simple Thing

By Nichole Giles

Retailers call it Black Friday. Walmart employees call it Blitz. Husbands have been known to refer to it as doomsday, knowing that by three AM their quiet, usually docile wives will turn into efficient shopping machines who will fight with elbows and fists—and sometimes merchandise—for the ten dollar Cabbage Patch Dolls and the five dollar DVD’s. The rest of the human world knows it as the day after Thanksgiving.

It’s crazy. We spend Thanksgiving Day feasting, visiting family members, and remembering all the many things for which we should be thankful. But as soon as the pie is cut, a lot of people scour the newspaper ads for bargains, map out the most efficient route from store to store, and count their pennies to know exactly how important it is for them to acquire that specific item for that specific blowout price.

The problem is, everyone willing to brave the crowds on this the blackest of days, has a good reason for being where they are. I seriously doubt the people camping out at Walmart at 2:30 AM are guarding their spot by the specialty skateboards because they have an abundance of money. On the contrary, these are the people for whom the special deals matter so much that they are willing to forego sleep in order to fight to afford a special gift to put under the tree for their child.

Fight they will, and fight they do.

Sadly, there are many retailers who look forward to such fights. They dare to advertise a product at a specific price but only supply the crowd they’ve drawn with a handful of that item. When this happens (and it happens frequently) shoppers are often encouraged to “find a way in” and grab an item out of the arms of someone else. Ethics are thrown out the window as people who are usually polite resort to stealing things out of the shopping carts of others and throwing merchandise over the bobbing heads of a crowd.

Can you tell I’ve been there and done that? In the process I’ve seen a lot of things. Young people trampled, children being crushed as a crowd rushes a finally open door, men fighting with fists over $5 Barbie cars…. The chaos is almost enough to ruin Christmas entirely. What are the words to the song?

“And in despair I bowed my head
There is no peace on earth I said
For hate is strong and mocks the song
Of peace on Earth, good will to men.”

Last Friday, I waited my turn, shaking my head in sadness and thinking, “Look what the world has done to this holiday. We’ve ruined Christmas.” But then I noticed something else, something I hadn’t noticed before.

As they stood waiting, people were chatting with each other, discussing the children who would receive the gifts. Some were actually even friendly. And when the time for grabbing came, some people (not all, that would be too much to hope for) were polite enough to ‘grab’ an item for the strangers with whom they’d spent the last few hours waiting.

It’s just a simple thing, and yet those small acts of kindness were enough to redeem mankind and help me find a little bit of the Christmas spirit I thought I’d lost. That spirit put a smile in my mood and left me hoping that sometime this season I might be able to do something nice for someone else.

After all, it is in the small and simple things that we find our greatest joy.


Tristi Pinkston said...

You know, I've found the holiday crush to be a lot more friendly than I'd feared. Granted, I've never done Black Friday, but I've done the morning after Christmas at Wal-mart, and everyone is remarkably polite.

Maybe I'll have to get even more brave and venture out on Black Friday next year. To be honest, it's not the traffic in the store that keeps me from it, but the traffic on the roads leading to the stores.

Nichole Giles said...

Tristi, you're brave enough venturing out the day after Christmas. And you're right, traffic on Black Friday is terrible. Although, now that stores are starting to open at Midnight and 4 AM, the shopping maniacs are about the only traffic on the roads in the beginning.

As for politeness, this year I've seen so much more cordiality than in years past. It really does make a difference.

Thanks for commenting.