The frenzy has been ramping up all week to reach fever pitch on Friday. Yup, it’s Thanksgiving in America and along with clogged arterial roads and airways as people try to get ‘home for the holidays’, are the queues for being first in the door at whatever shop takes your fancy.
We have had two stints of living in these United States, the first time in 1997, and I remember being impressed the holiday meant such a lot to the everyman. Supermarkets might be open for a few hours in the morning for those last minute realisations that the yam had been forgotten, but essentially retail America closed for Thanksgiving. The emergency services were of course on standby in case the turkey burnt, or a mad uncle pulled a gun. Harried ticketing staff at airports or train stations or bus terminals attempted to get people to where they were meant to be – think John Candy and Steve Martin in the movie, Planes, Trains and Automobiles.
But in 2014, if we are to believe the commercials on television, in print and online, people really are just gearing up for the early-bird specials, those deals that cannot be missed. Some shops are foregoing their Thanksgiving altogether, store clerks being offered time and a half in order to cater to our insatiable desire to buy. Some large chain stores are opening extra early, others are letting the turkey go down and are only opening at 5pm tomorrow, and some are staying open all Thanksgiving Day, all night and through Black Friday – traditionally the busiest shopping day of the year; the next one being Boxing Day when all those presents are returned by the recipients wanting something different.
So much is written about the decline in family values, about the frenetic pace many of us lead our lives, about conversation around the dining table being non-existent as we gulp our food with one eye on our cell phone as we eat. Our high-speed lives controlled by high-tech gizmos.
Maybe it is no surprise yoga, tai chi, meditation classes are filled to overflowing – the only place people seem able to let go of their mobile devices. Even suburban trails and cycle paths, mostly tarred with white lines delineating where one is allowed to walk or ride, are travelled by people escaping the hurly-burly but many of them are still wired. Earphones dangling as music raps, or life-style gurus and motivational speakers urge more effort.
What has happened to quiet? What has happened to thinking time? What has happened to uninterrupted family time? Let’s at least have a few days a year where we leave the cell phone in our purse. Where we walk for the joy of quiet solitude or with our loved ones, including the dog.
Thanksgiving is a good place to start; and a good time for realising and remembering there are many in the world who would give anything to have a family to share a special day with. For those of us who have that family, it’s the time to show our gratitude. Put down the cell phone, ditch the selfie, spend time with those present not those in the virtual world, forget the once-in-a-lifetime deals – they’ll be on offer the next day, or week, or month.
Tomorrow is not the time to want more; it’s the day to be grateful for what we already have. The shopping can wait. Happy Thanksgiving!