Tis the season. What season? The stress filled season of course! It happens earlier and earlier each year. People begin to be inundated with forced happiness, which brings about the very opposite. Tempers flare, blood pressure goes up, stress eating happens, and throughout it all, we are constantly reminded that there are those in the world that are less fortunate than us.
Let's take a look at that last part for a minute. Yes, while you're getting upset at the fact that Starbucks took the minimalist route this year or that the mall is already playing Christmas carols, there are people who are starving, getting sick because of the environment that they live in, are living under the oppression of a militaristic regime, have to deal with the stress of being killed by land mines, soldiers, IEDs, or any number of awful things.
Ugh! You're thinking. The world is effed up! So what? What can I do? I'm one person! I can't stop corruption in government. I can't end world hunger. I can't single handedly clean up the environment. I can't I can't I can't...
Except that... You can.
Start with your own back yard. I know, you're probably sick to death of hearing me talk about having a positive impact in the world around you but it seems to me that now, more than ever, this is important. In the past month alone, I've seen so much hate pouring out of people that I have come close to taking the low road. In fact, there was one incident that very nearly caused me to have a very public meltdown. I'd just gone through what was one the most difficult and traumatic moments of my life when someone decided to direct their misanthropic attitude in my direction. No, there was no way that they could have known what I was dealing with, but that's the point. How often do people act on their negativity without considering others?
Xenophobic attitudes, casual racism, snarky internet comments for the sake of tearing others down, and the righteous indignation when others show signs of having a bad day are sadly more common than random acts of kindness.
Think about that for a moment. This is the time of year that stress and tensions are running high in everyone, not just you. Think about that retail worker who was short with you. Wow! How rude! What gives them the right to treat me that way? Well, honestly, sure, they should be nice, however, you try being nice when you are making minimum wage, have to deal with the entitled public, know that you are not going to get a day off to spend with family because people feel that shopping is the best way to show our gratitude... Yes, retail work sucks and YOU, are part of the problem.
So what can we do to help? Well, first of all, don't shop on Thanksgiving. For that matter, don't shop on Black Friday either. Countless studies have shown that you are not going to get a better deal and the fact that there is a website that tracks Black Friday deaths should be a warning. Perhaps if enough people stayed home or went out and did something else (like watching a movie or having a post holiday drink with friends) Corporations may realize that it is not in their financial best interest to open their doors and invite chaos in on what should be a holiday meant for reflecting on what we already have.
But Christina, everyone else is going to be out there. So what if Big Store Inc doesn't get my money? I'm just one person.
That's the attitude I'm talking about. So what? You remember back when you were a kid and you tried the 'everyone else is doing it' argument in your parents? What do you think you're doing right now? Yes. You're one person and no, it may not seem like much, but trust me. If enough 'one persons' comes to the same conclusion, it will make a difference.
Now, I know you can't avoid shopping for the whole season, so let's try something else. It's very simple. Ready?
Remember those retail workers with their minimum wage and angry faces? You don't know their stories. Just as you probably get upset when someone tells you to smile or be happy, they are likely to have stab-murder thoughts if you were to remind them that they are supposed to be the cheerful face of CorporateMart. Don't be that guy. Instead, YOU SMILE. You say thank you, wish them a good day, and be grateful for what they do. You know why? Because it's contagious. Your genuine positivity will make a larger impact that you know.
Now, while we're on the subject, let's talk about making a difference. This is also the time of year when it seems like every store wants you to give something to someplace. Whether it's a food bank at the grocery store, the Red Cross looking for disaster relief, the local pet shelter, or Toys for Tots, so many people think you are made of money!
It's okay if you aren't. Personally, I try to donate wherever I can, but I'm an author and my name is not JK Rowling, so I can't personally end world hunger. Also, I rarely have cash in my pocket, so walking past that kettle can be difficult, but sometimes it is necessary. You know what makes it worse? Acting like you don't see them or making some sort of derisive face or comment. The people who are standing out there looking for money are human and more often than not, not getting paid one red cent for their work. They understand that you may be broke or that you might just not have any cash on you. But they are no less deserving of empathy and kindness than anyone else.
And finally, I understand that'shop local' is an easier said than done prospect. Most towns don't have mom and pop's 'Ye Old PlayStation Emporium.' But that doesn't mean you should abandon all ethics and just shop at the big chain store that everyone knows is ruining the economy of several national including ours. There are options. Explore them.
So there you go. You have been preached to by one person who is on a crusade to make the world a better, happier, cleaner, more open, loving, and positive place for all, who won't stop just because she may be the only one.