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And... We're Off!

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And... We're Off! - January 12, 2006

No sooner have we passed the potatoes across our Thanksgiving tables, than we can be found clipping coupons that allow us an extra 20% off an item- any item- if we get to a certain store before the break of dawn the very next day. And we, as full-fledged competitive consumers, take the bait, set the alarm and prepare to awake the next day to fulfill our destinies. We shop.

Now, I have been spotted in the mall before on the day after Thanksgiving, but never at the crack of dawn, standing beside 200 of my new-found frozen friends, each of us waiting to knock the other down for a chance at a Tickle-me-Elmo.

The National Retail Federation pronounced that this recent Christmas season was expected to bring in one of the best gains ever, with sales expected to be upwards of $439.5 billion. But I can't understand consumers allowing their holidays to be consumed by the retail industry.

I started to think of all this while I was, indeed, in line the day after Thanksgiving. After battling traffic lights that were not working in the shopping area and computers that had gone off-line in one of the stores, the shoppers began to grow restless. I practiced relaxation breathing and tried to remember to smile when my turn to check-out came forty-five minutes later. I also tried to remember to smile when I had to return to one store after I got home that day and realized one of my purchases was not in my bag.

But not everyone was smiling that day; or even trying to. The Christmas carols were happily playing, and the Christmas sweatshirts were proclaiming joy once again. But few people actually looked happy and that bothered me.
Later that night, seeking the sanctuary of Internet shopping, I was looking for more gifting ideas on e-bay, when my youngest came into the room. "When can I start my shopping, Mommy?" he asked, obviously buying into the pre-holiday frenzy.

"I promise that you have time," I assured him.

"But I need to go today," insisted the ten-year old consumer. "And I don't know what to get anyone. I don't know what to get even you." Then, studying me for a moment, he continued with a question he already knew the answer to, "Do you like... um... cross necklaces?"

"I love cross necklaces," I answered, as I continued on with my e-bay search for the perfect present.

"Can I get on e-bay when you're done?" he persisted.

No sooner had I surrendered the computer to him than he began typing in his own e-bay search, stopping only to ask, "How do you spell 'cross'?"
"You know how to spell it" I answered.

"C-R-O-S-S?"

"Exactly," I assured him, as he typed away.

And that's when it hit me. All the hustle and bustle to buy the best presents at the cheapest price and to be done with it all first is not all bad. But somewhere along the line, all of us who wear the Christmas sweaters, sing the Christmas songs, and buy the Christmas presents, need to stop long enough to remember what it's really all about.

And for heaven's sake, smile.

Maybe we just need to stop long enough to ask ourselves the simple, yet profound question, "How do I spell 'cross'?"

Contributed by Tammy Bundy
 
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