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Give a little bit

November 20th, 2014

 

One week separates us from  one of the best American holidays (Thanksgiving) and one of the worst (Black Friday).

 

A common complaint is that the Christmas season seems to start earlier every year. Holiday music creeps onto the radio by the end of October and the adsbegin before the first snowfall. The “most wonderful time of the year” arrives long before the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade.

 

I don’t consider myself a Scrooge, but I agree: the holiday season lengthens every year, bringing greed instead of generosity and depression instead of delight.

 

Why is this true? In a word – selfishness.

 

Next Thursday, we will celebrate Thanksgiving, an American tradition dating back to the 17th Century. English settlers in Jamestown, not Plymouth’s Pilgrims, held the first “day of thanksgiving” on December 4, 1619, according to nps.gov.

 

The holiday commemorates the perseverance of our ancestors, who overcame difficulties to establish colonies at Jamestown and Plymouth. At the time, the settlers celebrated their bountiful first harvests by eating lots of food over a three to four-day span. Food was difficult to grow and acquire, so the actual feast held major significance.

 

Our version of Thanksgiving sets aside time for us to count our blessings and remember how fortunate we are. Unfortunately, our feasts many times become less about giving thanks for friends and family and more about discovering how much food we can eat in one sitting. This gluttony session leads perfectly into “Black Thursday” and “Black Friday.”

 

As Black Thursday has become increasingly popular, more shoppers have shown anger with the practice. The Facebook page “Boycott Black Thursday” has over 90,000 likes. Thankfully, some large retailers such as Barnes & Noble and Home Depot have opted to stay closed on the evening of Thanksgiving. Most major stores will still be open, however.

 

We often ask ourselves: how can we best express our thankfulness for friends, family and fortune? Retailers tell us that we can do so by rushing to the stores and trampling others in the name of savings.

 

Bloodthirsty for bargains, we sprint to the mall late on Thursday evening, racing to beat others for that $200 TV or $40 DVD player.

 

The worst part is that we often disguise our selfish consumerism as generosity. We claim that we’re heading to Target to buy Johnny a discounted video game or we’re off to Best Buy to acquire an iPad for Mom and Dad.

 

Too many of us seek out these bargains with the wrong motives. Many of us are willing to elbow that little old lady out of the way to make sure we get the last copy of “Frozen.”

 

Every year, at least a handful of people are trampled or injured on a bleak Thursday evening or Friday morning. Look at the headlines in the days after Thanksgiving.

 

Let’s break the spell this holiday season. Let’s put an end to the madness.

 

Try a different approach. Avoid buying the priciest gift in the store just so you can receive something expensive.

 

To show our appreciation for our loved ones, let’s spend some time with them. Let’s make memorable presents instead of buying a costly gizmo. Mom would much rather receive a homemade photo collage than a new MP3 player.

 

As corny as it sounds, Christmas is more about giving than receiving. We hear the phrase plenty of times throughout the season, but we never seem to absorb it.

 

Most importantly, let’s focus on giving in the little ways. Help the fellow next to you who dropped his books in the snow. Hold the door for the person who has her hands full. Say hello to a stranger as you’re walking to class.

 

The little things add up quickly. The smallest of gestures can brighten a person’s day.

 

Change the way you view the holiday season. Your outlook on Christmas will change, and you will feel happier and more fulfilled.

 

As a wise man once told me, this approach will change your life, “in a small but measurable way.”