Black Friday is the perfect name for the day when humanity stoops to one of its lowest levels and display much of what is wrong with the species.
We lost track of the meaning of the holiday season years ago when Thanksgiving became a holiday to mark the beginning of the Christmas shopping season. In case someone forgot, Christmas is the holiday that is supposed to celebrate the birth of a man who started a religion.
Sure, there is some religious activity around the holiday, but that is overshadowed by the commercialism that has spread faster than the most aggressive cancer. What would happen if the world decided to embrace the spirit of Jesus Christ instead of trying to mark his birth by purchasing as many presents as possible while going into debt for the rest of the year?
Retailers would have to adjust their timetable for profits and find new ways to boost sales. I have no doubt they would be able to rebound and maintain their economic strength without taking advantage of the birth of a holy man to fill their cash registers.
One of the more pernicious symbols of Christmas is that of modern day Santa Claus. It is believed that St. Nicholas, a Christian bishop and saint, morphed into Santa Claus in the 1830s as a result of illustrations by the cartoonist Thomas Nast.
Somewhere along the way Santa became the most ingenious marketing tool ever devised. Sure, he was a figure who was supposed to embody the Christmas spirit, but he has become a shill for retailers. After all, Santa is all about presents. His workshop elves are the oppressed workers in Asia and Mexico who work for paltry wages so people can buy cheap clothing and electronics for themselves and their loved ones.
It would be nice to change the message from Santa but still use his marketing appeal. Instead of bringing presents to every child across the globe he could bring each of them a story about other children who have greater needs than they. He could leave the children of America stories about how the children in Haiti or the Sudan live on a daily basis and ask the American children to send their less fortunate counterparts something of value, such as donations to reputable charities. Imagine if we saw advertisements by charities redefining who Santa is. We would see the jolly fat man flying his sleigh over the deserts of Africa to present a check to an orphanage or watch as he magically converts American money to food and clothing for people living in the most recent natural disaster zone.
Instead of Black Friday we would be able to mark a new season of giving and designate that day the beginning of the Christmas Season, a time of reflection and unconditional generosity. It could be the beginning of a time of year when people find ways to raise money for the less fortunate among us. Eventually we could move away from giving each other presents that we really can live without to working to make sure others have basics such as food, clothing and shelter.
We are a resilient species and I have hope that, someday, all of us, including Santa Claus, will see the error of our ways and move beyond the dark shadows we are casting from Thanksgiving to Christmas.
I recently visited the site where Christ gave the Sermon on the Mount. There is a field leading up to the Church of the Beatitudes overlooking the Sea of Galilee where it is believed that thousands of people gathered to hear Christ make an effort at putting the deeds of man into perspective. We often hear the words about how the meek shall inherit the earth but there is more wisdom later in his sermon that applies to the need to move away from Black Friday.
Keep in mind that these were words spoken by a young Jewish man more than 2000 years ago who was driven by a compelling need to change the meaning of people's lives. He could see where we were headed and he wanted to try to prevent potential harm.
"Ye are the salt of the earth: but if the salt have lost his saviour, wherewith shall it be salted? It is thenceforth good for nothing, but to be cast out, and to be trodden under foot of men.
"Ye are the light of the world. A city that is set on an hill cannot be hid. Neither do men light a candle, and put it under a bushel, but on a candlestick; and it giveth light unto all that are in the house. Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven. Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfill. For verily I say unto you, Till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one title shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled."
Richard Davis is a registered nurse and long-time health care advocate. He writes from Guilford and welcomes comments at firstname.lastname@example.org.