Black Friday Blind

I realize that the times call for a bit of creativity now and then—but this creative? In a Black Friday mad dash for an Xbox video game console on sale, a woman at a Los Angeles Wal-Mart last week neutralized her competition (twenty other shoppers) racing for that same electronic toy. She did it with resolve and a nifty little can of pepper spray. Blinded all twenty of them. And hands down (and eyes shut), she won! Merry Christmas, children. But hers was hardly an isolated instance of Christmas shopping aggression. Commenting on the rash of "shopping related violence [rolling] in this week from Los Angeles to New York," the Associated Press reported (in classic understatement) that "experts say a volatile mix of desperate retailers and cutthroat marketing has hyped the traditional post-Thanksgiving sales to increasingly frenzied levels." Do you think! "With stores opening earlier, bargain-obsessed shoppers often are sleep-deprived and short-tempered. . . . Add in the online-coupon phenomenon, which feeds the psychological hunger for finding impossible bargains, and you've got a recipe for trouble, said Theresa Williams, a marketing professor at Indiana University" (South Bend Tribune 11-27-11). Though probably not enough trouble to convince businesses (and shoppers) to back off. According to the National Retail Federation, American shoppers last weekend spent an all-time high of $52.4 billion--up 16% from the same weekend the year before. And Cyber Monday online sales were $1.25 billion, 33% higher than last year. Did somebody say "economic recession?" Not wanting to be the Grinch that stole Christmas or sound like Dave Ramsey, but I wonder aloud: How much of these sales were credit card purchases to be paid off sometime in the New Year? All because everyone else is doing it? So what would happen if we turned counter-cultural for Christmas? What if we shifted the paradigm, and instead of focusing on how profusely we can give to those we know and love best, we instead began to ask how sacrificially we might give to those we know the least? Like the record number of Americans in the latest census (49.1 million) now considered poor. Don't know anybody that poor? They live 12 miles up the road from us in the inner city of Benton Harbor. Some live right here in university housing. So what if you adopted a family in need (up there or here)? Our Neighbor to Neighbor community service center in town (269-471-7411) has a list of needy families (up there and here)--why not call and ask how you might help one of those families? For the second year now, our church staff is choosing not to exchange gifts at our Christmas party, but rather combine all of our cash gifts for one of those needy families. We're no heroes. But it's proof enough that the paradigm can be shifted. Collectively, personally, simply. All it takes is for someone in your family to make the suggestion. (Which by the way isn't a moratorium on a gift or two for our own loved ones--just a shifting of focus to the more needy we don't even know.) "For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though He was rich, yet for your sakes He became poor, that you through His poverty might become rich" (II Corinthians 8:9). No shopping madness (or blindness) on that starry night. Just the quiet emptying of Heaven's treasury for the poorest of the poor--you and me. Since we have received so freely, shall we not then freely give?