When I was growing up, my dad ran a retail furniture and appliance business. One of the lessons of retail he taught me was that “you can make your week in one day, your month in one week, and your year in one month.” In other words, retail income isn’t a steady, consistent, reliable flow – and it can sometimes feel like feast-or-famine. The point of knowing that is to discipline yourself as a retailer to live off the averages and not the exceptions. The other point is not to lose hope when times are lean. That one great day or amazing week could be right around the corner.
As a child, I was unaware of the inconsistency which may have caused pressure for my father in providing for us. The store was open every day except Sundays and Wednesdays. We worshipped on Sundays and we shopped on Wednesdays. It was that way for my entire childhood. I wasn’t aware of any financial restrictions; we always had food and clothing and could go to the doctor as needed. I have no childhood memory of worrying about provisions.
Over the past several years it has become increasingly noticeable that Thanksgiving Day is being squeezed out by its neighboring day, now known as “Black Friday.” In accounting, a “black” day would be a profit-making day that brings a business out of the “red” (operating at a loss.) Retailers today put a lot of hope in Black Friday and the Christmas shopping season that it kicks off. I suspect some actually do need to be pulled out of the red and into the black in terms of accounting, but many just want more of the black (aka “green.”)
I have a lot of issues with our consumerist culture. We easily understand concepts of profit and loss and why it is necessary to do whatever it takes to remain “in the black.” We take a profit/loss approach to just about everything we do: careers, relationships, where/when/if we serve as volunteers … you get the picture. As I learned in my sales career, everyone wears a sign that reads, “What’s in it for me?” If I stand to gain more than I lose, then I might buy what you’re selling.
I suppose that’s some of what has happened to Thanksgiving. People don’t see much personal gain in giving thanks. A day dedicated to visiting with family and sharing a special meal to commemorate a year of things for which to give thanks might seem like a waste of time. Perhaps a nod to gratitude could suffice before we hit the big sales and put a dent in our Christmas shopping.
But I would argue that an intentional day of gratitude is a great investment. I would count it as a discipline, really – a discipline that trains and prepares us to trust God for what we receive and what we can give. It was in my sales career that I learned that God is indeed my provider, regardless of who writes my checks. We could never out-give God and should never miss an opportunity to thank God. So, don’t let our cultural fascination with “big sales” on Black Friday rob you of your opportunity to be thankful first. Spend time with your loved ones and thank God for them. Even if that means you don’t get to the store until 10:00 on Friday morning.