Every year as a kid my mom would make us all go around the Thanksgiving table and share aloud one thing we were grateful for. While I didn’t appreciate or really understand her intentions at the time, (I thought she was just being your typical annoying quirky mother) this annual act of gratitude managed to impart upon me the importance of being grateful. Turns out, she wasn’t trying to be annoying, she truly understood the meaning of Thanksgiving. This is a tradition that I will no doubt carry on with my own family, even if they think I am annoying too.
Walmart recently announced that it would be opening its doors at 8pm on Thanksgiving night, two hours earlier than last year. 10pm still stinks but at least it is after dinner whereas 8pm cuts into family time. Regardless of whether or not the two hours makes a difference, why are stores opening their doors at all on Thanksgiving day? Why can’t they wait until 12am for Black Friday? Why do retailers feel the need to cut into time that should be spent with loved ones? Is getting a good deal really more important than family? I am glad to see that Walmart employees are petitioning this, because they, like the rest of us, deserve to have time off to spend time with their friends and relatives for the holiday.
It is true, not everyone has the day off. Doctors, firefighters, police and waiters in restaurants, etc. give up their holiday for the needs of the public, for the greater good. But is it really a necessity for retailers to be open? Is this really for the greater good? Or just corporate greed? The retail giants market the doorbuster deals as being better the earlier you shop, but are shoppers really going to get better discounts just because the doors open before Black Friday? The doorbuster deal should remain the same no matter what time the doors actually open whether it be at 8pm or 4am. I don’t see it as creating or bringing in any new sales that wouldn’t have otherwise existed; I see it as retailers just moving the sale from Friday to Thursday. Thanksgiving Day and Black Friday have blended together and transitioned into one big shopping holiday, time we get off from work and school to shop and eat.
It is bad enough that we stuff our faces until we can’t move anymore, but we have to go and add insult to injury when people get into physical fights over toys. It is ironic that while at dinner we share what we’re grateful for, yet turn into monsters that very night and fight over things we don’t need.
While we are gorging and fighting over junk, there are people out there who are starving and fighting just to survive. Americans have developed this warped sense of what we “need.” What people need is to put life into perspective and realize what is truly a necessity and what is not. Can’t we use that energy and money we’re spending on chotchkes to help people who really need it?
It is sad; Americans seem to have lost the meaning of Thanksgiving. We have misplaced our priorities and forgotten what truly is important. Yes, we might watch the parade and football while a delicious meal cooks in the oven, but Thanksgiving itself isn’t just about tables full of great food nor is it about getting the best discount on holiday gifts and junk. It’s about remembering the pilgrims, spending time with family and friends and taking time to be grateful for what we have. The name itself says it all – it is about giving thanks, not about wanting more. Thanksgiving is a time, not only to give thanks for everything we have, but to give back to those who are less fortunate.
Just what we are grateful for varies for everyone; there are people who are grateful for less than what you have, Sandy survivors who are just thankful to be alive, the immigrants who are thankful to be celebrating their first Thanksgiving as a US citizen, the people in the shelter who are thankful to have a meal at all, the cancer survivor who is thankful to have lived to see her son’s wedding, or the daughter who is grateful that her father’s quadruple bi-pass surgery was a success, etc. Yet, we have companies saying that our priority this holiday should be about shopping.
This is the one time of year that we are reminded to pause our busy lives for a night to reflect on what we are grateful for while we eat surrounded by friends and family. So this Thanksgiving, please take a few minutes to set aside everything that Thanksgiving has come to represent to reflect on what you are grateful for this year. Please encourage your family to go around the dining table and share something they are grateful for, too. Just as my mother did, start that as a tradition in your house, too. Listen to what others are thankful for. When we hear all the things that others are thankful for, it reminds us that we are all thankful for different things and that there is so much to be grateful for in this world. But it isn’t the elaborate details of what we are thankful for that matters. It is the simple fact that we are taking the time to appreciate what we have and reflect on that.
Lets go back to basics and rediscover the true meaning of Thanksgiving. Lets surround ourselves with our loved ones, our family and friends and give thanks.
Have a very happy and gratitude-filled Thanksgiving.