The holidays have now officially started. Tomorrow people will crowd the malls and fight each other for big screen TVs and some random toy that their child has to have. When I heard that some stores were starting their sales at midnight, my first thoughts were not of the sales or of the deals that stores are offering. Rather, I’m thinking about those people who have to work all night trying to keep mothers from killing each other over a game. Those people need to be mentioned in our daily prayers from now until after the first of the year. They don’t get paid enough to put up with someone screaming at them at 2 a.m. on Black Friday about why there are no more 62 inch plasma TVs left on the shelf.
I must admit that I have never gone and camped out and waited for sales. As a result, I’ve probably spent more money than I could have for Christmas presents. I did accidently go to Wal-Mart once on the afternoon of Black Friday to pick up something like toilet paper. People had been waiting in the layaway line for four hours. FOUR HOURS to put something on hold that they don’t have the money to buy. Think about that.
Don’t get me wrong, I love to shop. My mom and I have been known to spend hours in the same store. I find shopping cathartic. There’s something simple in getting something new, especially if it’s something that you’ve saved for or have been looking for a long time.
Christmas shopping is different. There’s pressure with Christmas shopping. There’s a deadline. There’s things that have to be done and bought and wrapped and shipped and opened and put away. There’s the endless lists and hoping that you’re getting the right thing and wondering if $20 is enough to spend on your mother’s cousin’s best friend’s daughter who always seems to show up unannounced Christmas afternoon.
The meaning of the season is lost in all the pushing and shoving. I know that Advent is the time to wait and prepare for the coming Christ, but it’s more than that. It’s time to spend with family and friends, eating, laughing, catching up. It should be more about a few perfect moments than about how much money we spend and who wins the retail wars.
So, over the next few weeks when you’re out and about, tired, trying to cross everything off your list, remember those who are working in retail helping you find tie for Uncle Rick or standing at the register listening to Jingle Bells for the 4,563rd time today. It’s not their fault the line is long or that someone ran over your foot with a cart, or that there are no more copies of The Help on Blu Ray. Smile, thank them and let them know you empathize with them. And say a little prayer for them when that mother with the out of control kids starts screaming behind you.