Let this be a small exercise in personal wealth. You are not what you own or what you buy. Say it with me. “Sleeping on the floor in an empty room with no belongings, I am just as wholesome, complete, and valuable as if I were sleeping on an iPad”. Your friends, family, and colleagues will not think any less should you decide not to shower them with gifts during the holiday season. You, and not your belongings, are what make you.
Black Friday has gotten out of control, but it is merely representative of a greater and growing America that is enamored with buying stuff. I realize that not everyone shares the feeling, but it has reached a point of embarrassment. It is Thanksgiving 2012, and retail stores are opening at 8pm, I suppose to get a jump on that Black Friday rush. Why can we not simply stay home with our families? What draws us to the stores at night? Do we have nothing better to do, or have we forgotten how to be without buying?
The embarrassment, at least for me, extends far beyond Black Friday (I still can’t believe the Black is capitalized). Shopping is our national sport. As a solution to the souring 2006 and 2007 economy, former President George W. Bush encouraged Americans to shop more. The message from the current administration has not been much different—irrespective of the Democratic or Republican fickleness that controls America’s mainstream political discourse, the message remains stagnant—our economy is built on manufacturing, selling, buying, and discarding lots of stuff. A reasonable alternative is never presented. Stuff satisfies our hearts, employs us, and keeps us moving as a nation. Do you have your stuff, and will you be buying your share of it on Black Friday and every other day of the year?
Instead of shopping phone a friend. Cook a warm meal and invite over the colleague that will not be flying home to be with his family. Bake a cake. Take a long walk down the street. Sing a song, play a game, or start a crafts project. Watch a movie or listen to the radio that you already own. Make your gifts from stuff you already own. Put your purses and wallets down and enjoy the life that is yours by saying no more to stuff. Bed, Bath, and Beyond will be alright without you and your paycheck, and should your family not receive that deluxe potato cutter as a Thanksgiving memento, they will love you equally all the same.