What Matters Most?Each year I typically write a special post for Black Friday, and post it on the actual Black Friday, the day after Thanksgiving here in the U.S. It’s called Black Friday because it marks the start of the holiday shopping season, and since it’s the busiest time of year for most retailers, it’s when they “go into the black” in their financial books.

This year I’m posting this on Wednesday, the day before Thanksgiving. Why? Because national retailers keep pushing back the start of Black Friday. Years ago I remembered when they started opening up at 6 a.m. Then 5 a.m. Then midnight on Thanksgiving.

I opened the paper this past Sunday morning to find all the insert ads from national chains. When I spotted the KMart ad, I noticed that now they were opening up at 6 a.m….Thanksgiving morning. That’s right, while most of us are dreaming about gorging ourselves on turkey, stuffing, and pumpkin pie, KMart and other retailers will be trying to lure shoppers out, and away from their families, to spend our money.

What is wrong with this picture? Do we really need to be shopping on Thanksgiving Day? And when one retailer does this, the others feel they have to follow suit. Of course the brick and mortar retailers are now competing with online stores.

But local small businesses can’t compete. Mom and pop stores can’t easily open on Thanksgiving Day, nor should they feel they have to. They already can’t offer the deep discounts of the big box stores, so they are already at a disadvantage. And the more money we spend at these massive Black Friday sales, the less we have to spend with smaller, independent businesses.

We decry the consumerism and commercialism of the holidays, and yet, there we are. Many of us will be lining up outside of stores at crazy hours just to save a few bucks. Is this what we’ve become? Is it all about the money and the deals?

So really, what matters most?

Tomorrow morning, Thanksgiving, some of my clients will be at work at 6 a.m., but not to be open for business like the big retailers. Instead they will be there to serve others.

Chef Meghan Young and her business partner Jose Fuentes of Character’s Pub will be in their kitchen, along with their staff and a group of volunteers. Not to prepare food for customers, but to cook up an incredible Thanksgiving dinner for more than 60 food insecure families here in Lancaster through a partnership with the Power Packs Project.

Meanwhile my client Water Street Ministries will be open, serving meals to the homeless and working poor of our area. Water Street is open 365 days a year, 24/7. They are making a difference. While many of us are out battling the crowds trying to save a few bucks on high priced items. Employees and volunteers will be getting up early and giving up all or part of their day to serve others.

Those are just two of many examples in my neighborhood, and I’m sure there are plenty of similar situations in yours.

Again, what matters most?

As you approach the coming holiday season, and the accompanying crush of consumerism, here are two things that each of us can do, to show others what we think matters most:

Small Business Saturday

1. Support small, independent, local business – Sandwiched between Black Friday and Cyber Monday is their lesser known cousin, Small Business Saturday. Why not consider supporting the little guy? More of the money that you spend at local businesses within your own community stays in your community. But local doesn’t even have to be local to you. If you can’t find what you want in your community, find a small business in some other locality.

2. Support nonprofits and alternate gift giving – Rather than buying more stuff that you really don’t need or that clutters up your house, consider supporting nonprofits by donating to them in the name of your gift recipients. You can support local nonprofits by purchasing alternative gifts, or work through international organizations like Samaritan’s Purse and World Vision. There are many others, but we’ve received catalogs from these two, giving us the option of purchasing items like goats, pigs, cows, school and medical supplies, or even full homes for people in underdeveloped nations. You can purchase these in the name of a friend or family member, and let them know that you are doing something good on their behalf. You can also support nonprofits by giving the gift of your time. It’s probably too late to volunteer for Thanksgiving, but why not consider helping out on Christmas.

3. Support fair trade – A lot of the products we generally purchase for gifts are manufactured in sweat shops or by overseas workers who are forced to work long hours for low pay. By purchasing these items we are perpetuating that practice. But there are plenty of Fair Trade organizations and products that be found locally and on the web, or through an organization like Ten Thousand Villages. Fair trade products are produced in such a way that they provide living wages and help to build sustainable businesses in developing countries.

Now I understand that it’s not always possible to all or even some of these, and I admit we do our share of online shopping with Amazon, but we do try to support small local

What Matters Most?

On Thanksgiving morning I won’t be going shopping. I plan on getting up, spending time with family, sharing a meal, and watching parades and football, and there is sure to be a nap somewhere in there.

Have a Happy Thanksgiving and enjoy your time with friends and family.

Shopping and spending money has become the American way, but is it what matters most?