I originally wrote this about two months ago. Why I am just getting around to posting it is beyond me. I think I just forgot about it. But I think it is still valuable: here goes.
There is a problem with our society. It is a problem most of us feed in one way or another and that is overwhelming apparent in American culture. We have all been part of the problem at one point. It is nearly unavoidable.
Let me tell you a story of a few things that happened to me the other day.
It is the Christmas season. Holiday season. Whatever. It is that time of the year when everyone is out frantically buying things for themselves their family and friends because of the outrageous holiday deals offered by every store and the obligation to give everyone who means something to you a tangible representation of their worth.
The more money you spend on a gift, the more that person is worth. Okay, maybe it isn’t true, but we have all thought that at one point or another. I digress.
Anyway, I was out shopping for my family. First I pilfered through all the shops on main street and, I am proud to say, actually found a few decent gifts. I live in a small town and the atmosphere was jovial and welcoming and people seemed full of the spirit of the season. However my shopping didn’t end there. I had to make a run by Wal-Mart to find a few odds and ends and a couple knick-knacks I had been meaning to pick up.
Let me make this clear. I actually like Wal-Mart. What they have done for convenience and price’s sake is really impressive. But on this particular occasion two things happened that make me not want to go back anytime soon. A) I bought things I didn’t need on a whim. This wasn’t the first time this had happened. I mean, who hasn’t fallen prey to the seductive five dollar movie bin? I am a compulsive spender anyway (blast ye online shopping!). And B) the crowd in that place was simply outrageous. Like I said, I live in a small town. And to me it appeared that everyone in town was packed into the confines of Wal-Mart. Overcrowding makes for an unpleasant experience. People bicker over parking spaces. My personal bubble was invaded simply because there wasn’t enough room for all the people in the aisles. The checkout lines were long and people were peevish because they were tired of waiting. It was miserable.
I get it. That’s what I get for going to a mega-mart this time of year. It happens. But it is a sign of the problem I am talking about.
So my day continues. I wander over to the thrift store ironically located right next to Wal-Mart. I wander through and don’t find anything of interest but it sparks my desire for used things. So I head over to a bicycle repair shop that also sells refurbished bikes. I had been looking for a good commuter for a while and decided that it couldn’t hurt just to see what they had and see what prices I could expect to pay.
I walked into the shop and told the guy at the counter I was “just looking around.” The problem with small places like this one is that they genuinely care too much (I say this tongue in cheek. Local vendors, please keep caring!) and so the guy came over, asked me what I would use the bike for, and showed me a few they had that were practical and were my size. A few minutes later I was walking out with a bike that I really liked, in fact it was exactly what I had been looking for, but a lighter wallet and another compulsive buy to mark down for the day.
So here is the issue, despite my best attempts to go out and buy something for someone else, I still ended up buying things for myself. Somehow our society has built a culture where spending is easier than saving. We know debt is an issue. We know that giving is better than receiving. But somehow when that shiny new bike/jacket/car/coffee mug/whatever your vice may be happens to be on sale, we easily justify our purchase. Admittedly I don’t know what the cure for this is. But I simply urge that we all be aware of it during the busiest time for deals and shopping, all year. Instead of running each other over to get a deal on a flatscreen TV, let’s all take a step back and remember how our actions affect others and our own future.