A contrast in Thanksgiving
Monday, December 02, 2013 7:58 PM
One of the truths about working in the newspaper business is that, every once in a while, you have to work on a holiday.
After all, somebody's got to be here to put out a paper, seven days a week, 365 days a year.
This year, I drew the straw for working on Thanksgiving. It wasn't a big deal, as I certainly don't mind doing my part in helping put out the paper. Plus, as you might have guessed, I still managed to find time to work in a little turkey and dressing at my grandma's house.
What was interesting on this particular Thanksgiving was, because of my assignments that day, I was able to get a close look at two very distinct - and opposite - microcosms of today's society, here and across the nation.
My first assignment Thursday was at the Soup Kitchen where executive director Norm Fawcett and his crew and Greenwood County Councilwoman Edith Childs put on their annual Thanksgiving meal for the needy. More than 50 volunteers from the community helped prepare meals for more than 300 less fortunate people from Greenwood.
Everyone I encountered at the Soup Kitchen - every volunteer, every worker, every guest who was receiving a meal - was exceedingly gracious, kind, humble and, frankly, happy.
There were, down in a hot kitchen in the basement of the United Center, dozens of volunteers who, rather than spending time with their families on Thanksgiving morning, chose to give their time and energy to help those who have less. Most did it with a smile and an easy grace.
Among the hundreds of guests who received a meal, there were many who, quite frankly, don't have anything. Some are homeless. Some are scrambling just to make it day by day.
Yet, they laughed. And smiled. And had a humble spirit about themselves.
When Childs got up to address the crowd, she noted it was a good morning. "Amen!" came the response from the crowd. Childs and Fawcett then led the crowd in a rendition of the old hymn "Thank you, Lord."
The men and women in attendance - again, many of whom have virtually nothing in this world - belted out that hymn in a powerful, full-throated cadence, as if the Lord God Himself was in the back whipping up a macaroni pie.
What took place in the Soup Kitchen was truly - truly - a scene of Thanksgiving, one in which volunteers who have much gathered with guests who have little and created a moment grounded in humility, service, caring and selflessness.
They were qualities I saw very little of at an assignment later on Thanksgiving Day.
A SECOND ASSIGNMENT I HAD on Thanksgiving was to go out and cover all of the "Black Friday" madness that went on Thursday night and into Friday morning.
As I'm sure you are abundantly aware, Black Friday no longer begins on Friday. Black Friday has now elbowed its way into Thursday, scraping away at the time people should be spending with their families on Thanksgiving.
I used to enjoy Black Friday ... when it was on Friday. It was a fun day after Thanksgiving you could spend shopping and getting into the Christmas spirit. But, as the big box stores continued to move Black Friday earlier and earlier - all the way into Thursday evening - it just seems to have taken some of the fun out of it.
On Thursday night, I ventured to Wal-Mart, as I guessed that would be Ground Zero for Black Friday madness in Greenwood. My guess was correct.
Before I go any further, I must say, I'm not one of these anti-Wal-Mart people. I've got no problem with Wal-Mart. In fact, I think they offer some good products at decent prices.
But, on Black Friday, going to Wal-Mart just seems INSANE.
I couldn't believe how crowded the store was, with people standing - literally - shoulder-to-shoulder, banging their shopping carts into each other, not necessarily out of malice, but because there simply was not room to maneuver the carts.
Sheriff's deputies were there, keeping a very watchful eye on the gathering. This was a good thing.
And while I bumped into some friends and met some people who were happy to be out in this crazy holiday stir, I was struck by just how many people looked profoundly unhappy, even as they were pushing shopping carts that were absolutely filled with merchandise.
For some, spending hundreds of dollars on items they - presumably - were eager to purchase appeared to be more like a chore.
As I made my way through the store, squeezing through tiny spaces in the aisles, trying to politely push past as people yelled and scrambled all around me, I was struck by what a contrast it all was to the scene I had encountered that morning at the Soup Kitchen.
"Humility, service, caring and selflessness" were certainly not the words that came to mind in regard to "Black Friday."
I'm not trying to be a stick in the mud here. I know people need to do their Christmas shopping. I'll most certainly be doing my part to "stimulate the retail economy" between now and Dec. 25.
But, when Thanksgiving rolls around again next year, let's all take a day - that Thursday - to truly give thanks and to, perhaps, give something back to our fellow man.
Trust me, the stores will still be there on Friday. Wouldn't it be interesting if Black Friday actually - *gasp* - took place on Friday once again?
Trainor is the senior staff writer at the Index-Journal. Contact him at 943-5650; email firstname.lastname@example.org. You can follow him on Twitter @IJCHRISTRAINOR. Views expressed in this column are those of the writer only and do not represent the newspaper's opinion.