Christmas Stampede

Michelle Catalano and the Anchoress have written about how best to Christmas shop during a recession, and what lessons can be learned — and taught — about the spirit of Christmas. Both articles are well worth reading and re-reading throughout the holiday season. But there are also demons to be faced.

As shoppers faced a heavily-hyped Friday of deep discounts, early-bird specials, and break of dawn store openings, tragedy struck. At a Wal-Mart this morning, an employee died while trying to open the store doors to let the early-bird customers in. Apparently those customers, eager for bargains and ready to out-elbow and out-grab each other, ended up breaking the door and trampling the employee to death.

For the past week at least, television, radio, newspapers, and the internet have all been blaring advertisements of early openings and huge savings to be had on their self-styled “Black Friday,” attempting to whip consumers into a dollar-hemorrhaging frenzy. Well, it worked. Early morning lines of customers waiting for the magic hour of 5am or 6am or 7am, and I’m sure at the end of the day, these stores will gleefully account this day another pre-Christmas selling success story.

It’s human nature to want to give gifts. In many ways, it’s so much easier to give than to receive. Giving presents is a way to show that we care; giving expensive presents must prove that we care a lot. Doesn’t matter whether we can afford them. It makes us feel good, it makes us look good, ergo, it must be okay.

Stop and think. Is our desire to buy stuff, our avarice, worth the price of a human life? Is it worth the grief and anguish that victim’s family is going through right now? Is it worth the injuries sustained by other workers and even shoppers who were caught in the stampede? No, of course not. We all need to slow down, turn off the television, disregard the blandishments of one-time-only deals, and think about what we truly value, and what gifts from the heart will make the most impact on those we love.

During the upcoming holiday season, let us strive to lift ourselves up; to avoid, where possible, the siren’s song of commercialism; and remember what Christmas is truly all about.

“Fear not!” The greatest gift of all was about to arrive for humankind, and it was announced not by one-of-a-kind deals and early store openings for avid consumers, but by glorious angels to humble shepherds. Perhaps we can reach out and embrace the humility of the very first announcement of Christmas, and this year try giving gifts of love, from deep inside the heart. “Fear not!” That is what Christmas is all about.




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