It all started with Black Friday.
I know it’s already past New Year’s Day. I should be looking forward to new resolutions and hope and possibility. But I feel so stuck – so negative when I look at the world.
Usually I’m a very positive person, looking for the good in everything. But Black Friday can squash my optimism like none other. The turkey is not even cold, and the Thanksgiving prayers have barely left our lips, and we’re already dashing out the door to shove our neighbors down so they can’t get to the flat screen TV we so desperately want. Did you know there is actually a website that is tracking the Black Friday Death Count? We live in a world where our bad case of the gimmies actually causes DEATH.
I know some people are able to see it as a fun time of shopping, saving, and “surviving” the crowds. But I fail to see past the big black ugliness. Under the innocent layer of basic consumerism, materialism and greed are lurking.
We live in a country where even the needy are ungrateful. True story – my friend offered her lunch to a man who held a “Hungry” sign, and he actually rolled his eyes at her. I had a similar experience when my daughter and I stopped to help a man with a sign that read, “Hungry. Will work. Veteran.” When we offered to buy him lunch, he rapidly changed his tune to “Well, it’s not me who is hungry, it’s my wife. And she’s pretty picky.” Hmmm.
My pastor recently did an inspiring thing at church – he handed out various amounts of cash with the instruction for us to use it to go help others. The amount I received was $5. In a world where people are trampling each other for 25% off and beggars are rolling their eyes at our offerings, it felt like a staggering challenge. Can $5 really change anything?
My optimism had obviously taken a serious hit, and it all started with Black Friday.
But it turns out there is still good in the world. I reached out to the Random Acts of Kindness community for advice, and they showered me with ways to make a difference with little to no money or effort.
My friend gave that man her lunch – her awesome sandwich on her favorite bread – and ate nasty gas station food that day. My daughter and I bought the exact fruits that man thought his wife might like. Maybe neither of them got what they thought they wanted. But hopefully they got to feel valued. Hopefully they felt like someone noticed them. Isn’t that what we all want deep down – more than money or possessions – to feel like someone cares? If that is what those men got that day, then it was worth the frustration. Maybe it was the push of kindness they needed to start turning their lives around.
Here’s the thing. Jesus didn’t come to save the perfect people of the world. He came to change the sinners, of which I am one of the worst. So why am I shocked that the people I’m trying to help actually need real help changing their lives and their perspectives? Why am I shocked that they are not in a perfectly good mood, excited to take my handout?
“…Jesus said to them, ‘It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.'” ~Mark 2:17
Maybe next time I’ll find the courage to take time to ask these people for their stories. Maybe there is a good reason behind the eye rolling and the sign holding, and I could be the one to point them in a new direction through Jesus’ love. I will never know if my reaction to their response is to shut down.
It has taken me months to dig out of the negativity Black Friday started. Arguments over gun control are not helping. Entitlement is still running rampant. But somewhere out there, a child is enjoying a toy he wouldn’t otherwise have because my son gave the $5 to the Salvation Army bell ringers.
Somewhere out there is one single person who will cross your path, and another person who will cross mine. I’m finally ready to ignore the Black Friday negativity and notice them instead. Really notice them.
For musical inspiration try Matthew West: My Own Little World.
For more perspective on giving try Giving, Helping, Serving.
For ideas on where to start serving try Serve.
For more thoughts on Black Friday try The Minimalists: Let’s Talk About Black Friday.