I heard this quote for the first time a couple of weeks ago, and I haven’t been able to stop thinking about it. I started thinking about it even more as I watched the very abrupt transition from Thanksgiving to the “Christmas Season,” a time which seems to me to be incredibly thankless and misguided.
I’ve always been confused by the commercialism of the holidays. As a society, we devote one morning/afternoon to reflecting on our blessings and expressing our gratitude, but then just as quickly as it came, we abandon all of that in pursuit of things that are relatively meaningless. The fact that Black Friday now begins ON Thanksgiving and doesn’t seem to end until who knows when is a telling indication of just how eager we are to get a cheap fix purchasing cheap junk.
This past Cyber Monday was the most lucrative online shopping day in history, with sales exceeding $2 billion. Gray Thursday and Black Friday sales were slightly more disappointing, but still managed to rake in over $1 billion. Fights ensued over $5 Barbies. Fisticuffs were thrown to claim $29 tablets. Why leave with one $39 Blu Ray player when you could cram 20 in your cart?! A day that used to be spent at home with family now brings out the ugliest sides of humanity, all in the name of Bargain Shopping.
Not that Black Friday shopping is all bad. Admittedly, I walked to the shoe store across the street at 9 a.m. to buy the running shoes I’d been waiting for all year at 20% off–my only Thanksgiving weekend purchase. But the pandemonium surrounding the way in which we usher in Christmas causes me to wonder, where are our hearts? What do we value? Is our preoccupation with stuff the reason we are the wealthiest country in the world, yet somehow NOT the most content?
Rather than focus on acquiring more things, or even the noble task of giving more things, I want to spend the next few weeks preparing for Christmas by improving myself, strengthening my devotion to our Savior, serving others, and learning to be grateful for what I already have. I agree that one of the truest purposes of the Christmas season is that “It causes us to contemplate our relationship with our Father and the degree of devotion we have for God. It prompts us to be more tolerant and giving, more conscious of others, more generous and genuine, more filled with hope and charity and love” (Ezra Taft Benson).
I’m encouraged by the innumerable acts of kindness that take place throughout the year, but particularly during this season. This month, reach out, remember the forgotten, give of yourself and your time–not just your money, give someone the benefit of the doubt. And don’t forget to count your blessings.
This Christmas, mend a quarrel. Seek out a forgotten friend. Dismiss suspicion and replace it with trust. Write a letter. Give a soft answer. Encourage youth. Manifest your loyalty in word and deed. Keep a promise. Forgo a grudge. Forgive an enemy. Apologize. Try to understand. Examine your demands on others. Think first of someone else. Be kind. Be gentle. Laugh a little more. Express your gratitude. Welcome a stranger. Gladden the heart of a child. Take pleasure in the beauty and wonder of the earth. Speak your love and then speak it again.
-Howard w. hunter