before black friday comes

i don’t know who came up with the term “black friday,” for the day after thanksgiving – which is traditionally the biggest shopping day of the year – but here it comes again. and before we all get swept up in the holiday madness, i wanted to offer a few thoughts.

i read a short article in “adbusters” suggesting that we could take a page from islam in our approach to the frenzy of the holiday season, and the all-too common crash that comes in january when it’s all over. the author writes, “once the cheer that i’ve been mainlining since he day after thanksgiving dries up, i’m left with an emptiness i can’t describe.” she asks what it would be like if we introduce an element or two from ramadan into our christmas excess? muslums, during the daylight hours, refrain from eating, drinking and general excess for the month of ramadan. the author offers that fasting is an excercise that, like meditation, can leave one feeling more connected and whole. at the very least, it will leave us feeling less bloated and can go a long way toward alleviating that vague feeling of guilt from our month of overindulgence. i’m going to give it a try, in a modified way – setting aside my hours at work (the few i have left) for fasting. if for no other reason than just to see how it feels. (adbusters also suggest turning black friday into “buy nothing day.”)

i also find that, when people ask what i want for christmas, what comes to mind is how much stuff i already have all around me – closet full of clothes i don’t really wear, shelves of books i’ve already read, and all manner of knick-knacks that seem to crowd my life. we americans think little of the piles of stuff we surround ourselves with, when most people in the world have so little. without moralizing any more, i’d like to suggest two gift giving ideas for the people in your life who, like me, already have too much stuff.

one is the give card, a visa card that you can load up with $$, but which the recipient, upon activation, chooses from a long list of charitable organizations to donate $5 or more to from the amount on the card. then they can spend the rest on themselves if they want, or give it all away. i’m sure visa makes a few $$ off the deal, but it seems like a good idea to me.

then there is changing the present, which allows you, the gift giver, to choose from a long list of worthy causes – mostly people who have so much less than we do – and make a donation in the name of your recipient.

granted, we could find worthy causes – probably in our own backyards – on our own, but these two sites make it easy and quick to give a little something to someone who really needs it. it is all too easy to pass up the charitable giving in the face of how busy we all get – these two sites give us no excuses.

i have no intension of raining on anyone’s parade and dampening anyone’s turkey – we should enjoy the bounty and the love of family and friends around us. i would just suggest that we all set a little time and energy aside for others not as fortunate.

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Author: Stephen

Stephen Harris is a writer, painter and a photographer who lives with his family in Maine.

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