Black Friday is less than two weeks away. I’m sure many of you are already mapping your routes, making your lists and assigning responsibilities to each person in your group. Sally is going to drive; Mike is going to stand in line at each store while Emily and Melissa shop, and Beth is going to make sure everyone has enough food and water to continue burrowing through the endless piles of could-be gifts.
Based on my above description, you might think I’m Black Friday-certified, but the truth is that I’ve never shopped on the day after Thanksgiving. I’ve never been much of a shopper in the first place, and then an assignment I received as a young journalist solidified my distaste for the shoppers’ holiday.
I was assigned to cover Black Friday at a shopping center. I pulled into the already overflowing parking lot at 9 p.m. and parked at least a quarter of a mile away. As I walked up to the center, I could see thousands of people waiting in lines outside the stores. And for the next three hours they waited in frigid temperatures for the doors to open. I imagine that for some of them the anticipation was more exhilarating that night than on their wedding day or on the night their first child was born.
When the doors finally opened, the real chaos ensued. They pushed their way in front of others, ripped things out of each other’s hands and yelled at people they thought had an unfair advantage.
My experience was orderly and peaceful compared to some Black Friday incidents last year. One shopper was shot during a failed robbery attempt; police had to respond to a fight over $1.88 towels; a young girl was trampled in western Michigan, and a shopper injured 20 people when she used pepper spray to keep others away from the merchandise she wanted to buy.
And what is the motivation for this insane behavior? The pursuit of things.
I am happy to report that this year something extraordinary has started as a result of the madness. For the first time, the Tuesday after Thanksgiving will be called Giving Tuesday. Nov. 27 has been marked as a day to give back. Black Friday and Cyber Monday have become core components of our culture, and now I hope that Giving Tuesday will become just as popular.
According to the website, www.givingtuesday.org, Giving Tuesday is a campaign to create a national day of giving at the start of the annual holiday season. It celebrates and encourages charitable activities that support nonprofit organizations.
I love this idea of reminding us that the spirit of the holiday is about community, not consumerism. It is also neat that this campaign encourages people to specifically give back to their communities.
We have it pretty good in Columbus. Our median household income is higher than the state average; we have world-renowned architecture; and last year we had the highest job growth in the nation.
That being said, did you know that 10.4 percent of Bartholomew County citizens fall below the poverty line? That means that more than 7,000 of our fellow human beings, real people in our own community are struggling to preserve the most basic life necessities.
You might say, “I’ve seen the poor, and I try to help when I can.” But have you ever stopped to imagine what it might feel like to not be able to provide food for your family, medicine for your sick child, or even a place to call home?
I’m extremely lucky because I have never felt real hunger, and I’ve never had to worry if I could afford to heat my house. But more than 4,000 of our students receive meals at school knowing it could be the only meal they will get that day.
I am hopeful that Giving Tuesday, and this column will at the very least help you to stop and think about your contributions to this world. I hope that one day our worth will be measured more by the lasting impact we make on someone’s life than by the make of our car or the square footage of our home.
Please join me Nov. 27 by serving Columbus and the citizens who need us most. If you need ideas on how to give back, www.givingtuesday.org provides numerous examples of ways for families, organizations and communities to join in acts of giving.
Paige Harden is a proud lifelong resident of Columbus. A former newspaper reporter, Harden is now the public relations specialist for Columbus Regional Hospital. She can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.