For some, staying in the black trumps Black Friday

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As is our national tradition, the Thanksgiving holiday was most sincerely commemorated in stores and online.  Ever aware of our thrifty forebears, we are most grateful, it seems, for the gift of blow-out door-buster specials. 

But it’s not as though we can help ourselves.  Like every other holiday, all our cultural conditioning about Thanksgiving screams at us to consume.  It is the long-established American Thursday to eat until we are bloated and uncomfortable. 

As is our national tradition, the Thanksgiving holiday was most sincerely commemorated in stores and online.  Ever aware of our thrifty forebears, we are most grateful, it seems, for the gift of blow-out door-buster specials. 

But it’s not as though we can help ourselves.  Like every other holiday, all our cultural conditioning about Thanksgiving screams at us to consume.  It is the long-established American Thursday to eat until we are bloated and uncomfortable. 

It is also the time honored kick-off to our most covetous custom, honoring the season by spending like there is no tomorrow. And so, we pay homage to the great god Economy, who grants us all things prosperous and upwardly mobile.

Despite wars in Afghanistan, the middle East, and elsewhere, the media’s news-you-can-use offered scores of Black Friday stories: where to get the greatest bargains, how long the most dedicated shoppers waited in line, which stores opened earliest, how many were injured in the opening dash for special deals, how to match online prices at the store, and features on those who planned assaults on local malls in fanatical obedience to Society’s mandate to spend. 

Being Americans, however, we’re not satisfied with scoring incredible values as gifts for others.  No, we make certain there’s something in it for ourselves.

Word from the National Retail Federation is that this year’s “self-gifting” will reach a 10-year high.  That’s right, the holiday season’s early and near-endless deep discounts, along with marketing aimed specifically at self-gifters, will coax an average of $140 from those who’ll bestow a special gift marked “From: Me, To: Me.”

And if you end up giving yourself exactly what you wanted, well, in a looking-out-for-number-one age, that’s Peace on Earth.

But some folks opted to not do what they were told. 

A movement to shop local on Thanksgiving Saturday raised the boats of many small merchants in a tide of cash.  Others devoted their long weekend to visiting with family and friends.  Some volunteered to help feed the hungry or get warm clothes to those in need.

Likely these retail dissenters disobey any number of cultural imperatives.  They do not own the biggest home possible, and they’ve not leveraged it for second mortgage cash.  Their modest vehicles are paid for, steering clear of monthly car payments.  They do not blow two or three months salary on an engagement ring.  They have no interest in flying the family to a Disney Resort to create corporately-sponsored memories, nor do they covet the latest computing tablet. 

Despite the cradle-to-grave indoctrination to consume—from Happy Meals to special toys to designer school clothes to lavish proms to expensive tuition to big houses and cars to vacation condos to splendid retirement centers— these people resist.  One has to wonder, do those living more simply find satisfaction in rejecting those obligations imposed by a culture whose life blood is the money we spend as consumers? 

I’ll bet they do.  And with the money they’re not spending on meaningless stuff, maybe they DO buy themselves something nice from time to time.  But I’ll bet they share it with someone else, and are truly thankful that they can. 

Pat Grimes, a former South Bay resident, writes from Ypsilanti, Mich. He can be reached at pgwriter@inbox.com.