This week brings some of the best and the worst things in modern American life: the joy of Thanksgiving followed by the insanity that is Black Friday.
Thanksgiving may well be my favorite holiday. What’s not to like about food, loved ones and reasons to give thanks? Our family doesn’t get together until Sunday, but I was exceedingly fortunate that an amazing local family invited me over for their Thanksgiving dinner. “The more the merrier!” was the greeting extended to me, and the food and laughter unfolded in generous amounts. I may have learned more about some of the guests than anticipated as the stories ensued, but their level of comfort in doing so says a lot about the family. The room was filled, ultimately, with love. The feast was excellent, but the gathering and the fellowship were the real stars of the show. And that is, perhaps, the way it should be.
The way it shouldn’t be is having around 20 people injured when a WalMart shopper who really wants some video-game consoles busts out the pepper spray. Or seeing shoppers brawl in the electronics department of WalMart, with two injured and at least one arrested. And let’s not forget the WalMart employee trampled to death in 2008 in what sounds more like a scene from “Lord of the Flies” than holiday cheer.
Black Friday just keeps getting bigger and scarier. Worse, Black Friday is invading Thanksgiving day among many major retailers. Instead of letting retail workers facing the very hectic holiday season spend a nice dinner with their families, chains summon them to face large crowds bordering on hysteria. When did this week become about appeasing selfish greed instead of sharing the holiday spirit? When did getting a deep discount on a piece of electronics become more important than the safety and lives of others?
But that Thanksgiving spirit still exists. My friend Mike Petroff of Emerson College started an #eduthanks hashtag on Twitter Wednesday night listing all those friends in higher education he was thankful to know, and why. Dozens of others picked up on the thread, which Mike has posted in Storify, and spawned a touching Shelley Keith blog entry.
And the spirit still suffuses homes large and small throughout the country, giving all of us hope. When I left the gathering last night, several members of the family thanked me for coming. They opened their home, their hearts and their family cheer … and yet they thanked me? I was rather bowled over by that. Some things you just can’t put a price tag on, and have much greater value than any Black Friday bargain.