Holy Day: Black Friday

The holy day or holiday is upon us.  Say all you can about Christmas, Hanukah, Thanksgiving and the rest; the heavy weight American holiday is Black Friday.

To attract worshippers on this holiest of shopping days everyone rolls out the trimmings.  Walmart rolls stock around (you noticed it’s all on rollers, right?) to make lanes where you stand in line longer than for a ride at Six Flags over Botswana to pay for their must-have treasure.

In fact, just as with Christmas where we push the celebration into the day before and name it Christmas Eve, Black Friday deals start at 6 p.m. on Thanksgiving.  Isn’t it great?  Otherwise those poor sales clerks would be stuck at home eating with family, being thankful, and watching this year’s football version of Everybody Hates Dallas!

And like other religious rites, Black Friday’s millions of devotees have a special designation conferred on them: consumers.  You know, like pigs and other species gobbling up everything without being sated.  “Consumers”.  Our economy would be kaput without them!  This holy day is for you!

Please enjoy places for you to commune with manufactured things in the aisles and end caps!  These cardboard worship spots spring up to enable our most sacred transaction: impulse buying!  Staying home?  Our online, private worship version begs your attention in the page margins you’re viewing, but wait!  Google puts what you looked at online in the past weeks in the margin: that last nudge you need to click “Put in Cart”!

It does not matter your creed, ethnicity, or gender!  We can all fight over that last toy, apparel item equally, all hoping to consume that most wonderful possibility: something new to me!

But wait there is more!  If your consuming can wait a few days, then you can be overcome with the chills of “Winter Clearance” that runs through the twelve days of Christmas!

Enough cynicism.  I have to go put what I want on Amazon for my family to get it right this year.

Which Pappaw?

I escaped from Walmart’s widened aisles awaiting a deluge of Black-Friday-on-Thursday night shoppers.  Sky: dazzling blue.  Wind: minimal.  Temperature: perfect for sweat shirt.

I parked close, a great benefit in coming before the storm.  I approached my truck, triggered the locks, opened the door, and had three bags in mid hoist when it caught my eye, sitting in the back seat, with a seat belt trailing across it.

A bright yellow card was addressed to “Pappaw” in Claire’s handwriting.  She’s great at birthdays, and who-wants-what-for-Christmas.

I first thought, “How could a card addressed to Pappaw, to the man who adopted my mom, to a WW1 vet returned to Texas to build an F.W. Woolworth in Temple TX, who was a chair of deacons for 20 years, who toured the west with Mammaw, my sister and I in a trailer, and whose funeral I conducted forty years ago leave a card addressed to him in my truck?”

Avalanches of thought tumble out quickly.

My daughter-in-law who never met my Pappaw, addressed my birthday card using the “grandparent” name I chose for me.  The envelope had fallen into the seat as I collected the fleece and card two nights ago.

And I missed him.  Ached.  And I thought I’ll never attain to his stature in my life in my grandkids’ eyes.

And in missing him, I saw my hope of heaven is far deeper than I admit.  From this year’s bumper crop of people dying to leave this world, few will be missed by their own family in a generation.  The memories of the remainder will recede in the future’s busy world.

If Pappaw’s story continues to affect anyone on my passing, his story must remain his to tell in heaven.  Think of it another way.  If many remember JFK, Luther, Newton, C.S. Lewis or Tolkien: that’s nothing to them, meaningless with no heaven.  Legacies do nothing for the deceased.

One of his hopes is certain.  He never wanted to burden Mammaw.  So, he wrote my sister a letter @ 5 a.m. that Saturday, dressed for work (at age 78!), sat in his rocker, and was gone.  No burden: granted.  His other hope? Was to sing in heaven.

Picking up the yellow envelope I prayed once more his hope is confirmed, so I’ll see him again and apologize for slip streaming into both his names: Thomas L. and Pappaw.

Proxy

We live by proxy.

We pay a girl at the grocery store in exchange for our proxy in producing the food that we just bought.  That puts our proxy in the hands of millions of farmers around the world, fertilizer companies, seed producers and designers, beef / hog/ chicken producers, lobbyists, federal and state programs, legislators and inspectors. 

We pay at the pump for our proxy that puts our money (and taxes) into the hands of producers, regulators, inspectors, financiers, legislators, lobbyists and interest groups, researchers, and pipeline / delivery agents. 

We hand over our proxy for drugs that we purchase from someone we may or may not know in the pharmacy, but as soon as it comes into their pharmacy, all the rest of the people in that chain are completely unknown to us, and they have no reason to care for us as individuals except in some vague ideal. 

It is the same for our car, clothes, shoes, office products, computers, books, phones and shrubs. 

The supply chains and pipelines are so gargantuan and interconnected and governmental — that we have no idea to whom we have handed our proxy. 

Maybe we were first seduced or desensitized to the idea in church.  You know the place where we handed over any responsibility for changing the world in Christ’s name, to professionals in our church, conventions, seminaries and don’t forget the missionaries.  They will all work at it better than I would, right?

It turns out that if you grow your own tomatoes they taste astonishingly better than anything you can buy at Walmart on its best day. 

It turns out that if you actually become the minister, steward – whatever term you use – to other people, magical things happen. 

It turns out that in every relationship that connects me to my doc, pharmacist, farmers at the farmers’ market I have retained a few more rights to my life and health — and joy. 

It turns out that I should keep my proxy and give it up only after grave considerations.