Thursday, November 18, 2010

The Gift of Time

This doesn't seem fun to me...
Here in the States, Thanksgiving is almost upon us and will quickly be followed by "Black Friday". For those of you not familiar with the term, Black Friday is the Friday after Thanksgiving and "officially" opens the Christmas shopping season. It's referred to as Black Friday because, for many retailers, this is the day that determines whether they will end the year in the red or the black. My husband read a statistic last night that 49% of households will send at least one person shopping on Friday (as a scientist, I hate that I don't have a citation for that...). Some stores will open at 3 or 4am. I saw a sign on a store in my local mall that they would be opening at midnight after Thanksgiving for my shopping needs. These stores will offer insanely low prices to lure the hoards out in the wee hours of the night for TV's, GPS units, and other doo-hickies. Every year there are reports of injuries as people are trampled by their fellow shoppers. Last year, at least one store employee was killed, you heard that right, KILLED when the shoppers he was trying to let in the store trampled him. Feeling that holiday spirit yet?

Now, this is not a rant against technology, shopping or doo-hickies (although, I think the vast majority of us could all do with a little less of those things). I'm not advocating for a complete change of lifestyle. After all, I enjoy shopping and even my doo-hickies, although I try to make my doo-hickies multi-tasking and useful and not just entertaining (I'm not perfect, I have a Nintendo DS and a laptop that I spend too much non-working time on). What I am doing is asking you all to stop for a second...are you stopped? Great. Now that you have a second, ask yourself why you're thinking about running out the door to snap up those deals. Are they for gifts? For yourself? Have you answered? Great, then stick with me here.

If you answered that you're going to run out and buy gifts, analyze that for a second. Are these things that people asked you for? Do you know for sure that Uncle Bob wants a fancy-schmancy GPS? Has he mentioned it? If not, you have no way of knowing if it will ever get taken out of its box. If it doesn't, no matter how cheaply you bought it, you wasted money. Perhaps more importantly, you wasted time. Was Uncle Bob part of your Thanksgiving celebrations? Is he still around waiting for you to come home from buying the fancy-schmancy GPS that he couldn't care less about having? What if, instead of running out to the store while it was still dark, you had stayed home, slept in and shared a leisurely breakfast with Uncle Bob? Would he appreciate the gift of your time more than the gift of a gadget?

Now, if you said that you were heading out to find things for yourself at a great price, then the analysis is a little different. Is the gadget you're getting something that you truly need? For instance, has your washer been on its last legs for months and now you can get one at an unbeatable price? Then perhaps the trip is worth your time. However, if you're running out to get the latest gadget that you've never even touched before, ask yourself, is this deal really better than one I could get during a normal sale that takes place after the sun comes up? How long will you spend cleaning and maintaining this gadget. Are you giving up your time, not only to shop for the item, but also to keep it functioning optimally? And, lastly, would you have enjoyed sleeping in and having a lovely breakfast with Uncle Bob?

I know that there are many people out there who love their "things".  I know there are many people out there who mourn a loss of connection with their fellow man. I humbly suggest that we can use the holidays to reconnect with our fellow man and save the shopping for another day. All the same gadgets will be available after Black Friday and most of them will be the same price. Unless you're out to get the one big item that a store puts on sale, you're not going to save that much. And that's the point, you give up your time to go for the one big thing and then are tricked into thinking you're actually saving time by buying everything else while you're there. This one year, give the gift of time to yourself and your family. Play games with the little ones. Do a jigsaw puzzle with grandma. Talk to Uncle Bob. I guarantee that at no point in your life will you regret spending more time with those you love. I also guarantee that at no point in their life will your loved ones wish you had run out to buy them one more thing, rather than giving them the gift of your time.

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