America sure is a strange place. We’re the richest nation in the world, despite the fact that we’re also the world’s largest debtors. I’d like someone to explain that to me. The American attitude is often times nothing short of excessive and in order to get back in touch with what truly matters in this world, we really need to reevaluate our everyday behavior.
Let’s talk about that word “excessive” for a moment… its excessive, not to mention absurd, that our nation’s retail stores rely on a hysterical frenzy of shopping just to be profitable. Citizens across the nation line the doors of their local retailers and camp out all night so they can be the first to push through the doors and make a mad dash to the one gift they want the most. Sounds a little bit like a game show to me. Excessive is the front cover of this holiday confection catalog I have in front of me – it reads “BUY NOW! PAY LATER!” I think it should sound a bell in the heads of many Americans when they are making payments on their… chocolates. Has fiscal irresponsibility really become so pervasive that we can’t put a little bit of money away for the end of the year?
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not exempt from this madness either. On “Black Friday” this year I actually considered going to Wal-Mart to wait in line for their promotional deal on Xbox 360. In a moment of clarity, though, I snapped out of the zombie-ful yearning that was gripping me and I decided to just get some sleep. When I woke up the next morning, I was still feeling an inexplicable hunger for… stuff, so I walked over to my local mall to see what was going on. I don’t consider myself to be an anti-consumerist or anything, but I found myself disgusted by what I was seeing. A ridiculously overcrowded mall. Bare shelves. People carrying humorously large shopping bags. It surely wasn’t a sight for the feint of wallet. After confusedly walking around for a few more hours, I decided to head home. I didn’t wind up “getting” anything on Black Friday (except a wakeup call to the hysteria that is American consumerism).
On that Black Friday I had the beginnings of some revolutionary thoughts. I had clearly figured out that our society was very backwards and excessive – but what next? How can we make it better? I didn’t have my epiphany until about a week later while I was surfing the internet. I stumbled upon a site that allowed people like myself to connect with those living in third-world countries and help them buy things they need to live, like supplies for their business or a goat to produce milk for their family. Sometimes its easy to forget about people who are truly needy and as a society we should do our best to change this. To that end, this year, instead of giving gifts to my family that they don’t really need, I’m going to give them gift certificates to charitable organizations, and more importantly, I’m going to encourage everyone I know to do the same.
If you enjoyed this essay, please consider making a tax-deductible contribution to This I Believe, Inc.