A Black Friday Letter. ~ via Catherine Fordham.

Via on Nov 28, 2008

At 5 am this morning a man was killed, a pregnant woman was pushed over and 4 people were injured by a frenzied mob. No, this was not a political protest, or a club full of crazed drunk 20-somethings—this was the biggest shopping day of the year at a Wal-Mart Store on Long Island, NY.

The Huffington Post is mobbed with comments about their post on this story. All the usual stuff–people are f’ing scary and the Holidays bring out the worst, Wal-Mart is the worse place to spend your money at this time (They pay their employees (who apparently have very dangerous jobs) very little, they stomp out local economies, much of their merchandise is made cheaply in China, etc). There are 16 pages of these comments, and many are spot on (if not a little mean).

But here’s what I find myself thinking today. It’s easy to be disgusted by the people at that Wal-Mart. I picture hungry ghosts desperate for their next fix. I picture small-minded people with large appetites.

But haven’t we all felt that desperation and small mindedness? Living in NYC and constantly being in crowds, I struggle to remember that the people around me are people, and not just in my way. I once almost pushed over a blind man trying to catch a train. Caught up in speed and frustration, I found my self repeating “I hate you” under my breath while walking though a crowded Grand Central Station (indiscriminately, to everyone who crossed my path). I intentionally bump people out of my way walking up 7th avenue at lunch hour.

Being a sane person in the 21st Century is hard. The grip of materialism is like super glue–even for those of us who focus a lot of our lives trying to understand it. It’s an uncertain time in the world economy, and we are bombarded by bad news all day long.

Things are scary. So, while Wal-Mart should do much more to change the conditions that led to this horrible situation, and while we need to do so much work to change this stuff-driven Holiday Season, I want to acknowledge the uncomfortable truth that I could have been that person at Wal-Mart who pushed someone out of her way to get a bargain.

All of us have been stuck in that mind-set, at one time or another. And we have a lot of work to do, in our own minds and hearts, and in the societies we create, to be kind to the people around us—even in a crowd.

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11 Responses to “A Black Friday Letter. ~ via Catherine Fordham.”

  1. Sage says:

    Well said, Catherine. Thoughtful post.

  2. Adam Shake says:

    Well said and very articulate. Thank you for the voice of reason.

    I have written against consumerism and Walmart in the past, and it is awful easy to get angry when you see the inevitable results of the things that you have been trying to tell people.

    Thanks for putting this together,

    Adam Shake

  3. admin says:

    Waylon Hussein Lewis Today at 9:25am
    Good idea, Michael!

  4. admin says:

    Michael de los Gross Today at 1:05am
    yet another reason why we need a walmart in Boulder-proper. maybe take up central park’s footprint with it.

  5. admin says:

    Shari Soroka Yesterday at 5:10pm
    Also a sign of our economic times.

  6. admin says:

    Angela Aldatz (Los Angeles, CA) Yesterday at 7:39pm
    go figure
    walmart shoppers

  7. Hillary says:

    Catherine… I so appreciate your point that while it is easy and obvious to blame Wal-Mart or the economy or mass consumerism… the essential point to remember is that we are human beings living in Samsara and that we have to develop patience and the practice of peace from our own minds first. I’m just reading Pema Chodron’s Practicing Peace in Times of War and it’s a GREAT reminder of this… thanks for the mindful post!

  8. [...] went shopping on Black Friday and what did I find? Parking spots, short checkout lines, and the freedom to walk through stores [...]

  9. Tanner says:

    I think it is easy to get caught up in the whirring nature of day to day urban life. With iPods and newspapers it is easy to fog over your compassion for others. You said it best, though, great piece

  10. [...] But there is something far more reverent taking place, even on this most commercial of holidays. [...]

  11. [...] this current American holiday season, at least I can feel good about not participating in the massive plastic swiping that takes place in the name of “gift giving.” Karmically I feel like now I can sleep at night, [...]

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