What Not to Say While Holiday Shopping

I’m standing in line at the store, and the salespeople rush around, trying to relieve the long lines waiting at each check-out station.  Every intercom announcement sounds off the code red.  People are waiting!  Lots of people are waiting!  Hurry, hurry!

A traffic jam of shopping carts blocks everyone’s path as people maneuver for the best possible position.  When a new line opens up, ladies fight for that precious spot at a free register.  Somebody is going to get hurt. 

What’s happened to our manners?

I’m yawning in my line and feeling awfully cozy in my winter coat.  I’m still sick and in no mood to rush around. 

The shopper in front of me decides to sign up for some special program. The cashier turns to me, nearly in tears, and says, “I’m just so sorry.  You can find another cashier if you need to.  This is going to take time, and I’m just so sorry.” 

“That’s OK,” I say.  “I really have nowhere to be.  I’m not in any hurry.”  I shove my hands in my pockets, look up to the ceiling, and wonder what I might blog about today.

Silence.  People glance over at me like I’ve just said a bad word out loud.  Someone frowns at me.  How dare I hinder this holiday rush? How dare I support the one slow-poke in everyone’s way?  

“Take all the time you need,” I insist to the slow-poke. Those six words wrap the two of us in a warm holiday embrace.  The cashier smiles and looks as if she might actually hug me. 

Living with flair means–especially in December–we let people take all the time they need.  What’s so important in my shopping cart anyway?  What makes my day more important than another person’s?

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Are you the rushing one or the slow-poke?  I’m both!

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What College Freshmen Said They’d Keep Forever

After our project on how advertisers persuade us to purchase a whole array of non-essential items, I ask my students to name one thing they’ll keep forever.

Baby blankets (some brought them to college)
Military dog tags
Jewelry given from parents or grandparents
Musical instruments
Photographs

Not one student mentions anything related to trendy clothing or technology.  Nobody claims any attachment to their phones (we’re addicted, not attached!), their laptops, their purses, or their toys.

I realize that most things I’m tempted to purchase for my children have no lasting value.  What does?  Simple fabric objects of attachment, emblems of service to our nation, symbols of love passed down from generations before, musical instruments, and experiences captured on film.

If we pare down and trim off the excess of our lives, we’ll find what really matters.  As I raise my daughters in a world saturated with stuff, I might ask myself before I buy it, “Will they keep this forever?  What would this purchase symbolize?  Can it be an emblem? An experience?  A musical object?”

My students’ answers remind me of what I love and value.

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Journal:  What do you own that you’ll keep forever?

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My Daughter’s Perspective on Holiday Shopping

We’re in a glitzy store, admiring all the ornaments and enjoying the holiday smells.  As my children wander down the aisles to observe the dazzling toys, my youngest cries out:

“Mommy!  You have got to come see this!  It’s amazing!  Come here right now!”  She’s calling out to me, weaving in and out of shoppers to pull me to her side.  I think she’s about to show me some toy–the kind with bells and whistles and a price tag we’ll never be able to afford.

Instead, she drags me to. . . nothing.  In silence, she points to the floor.  There, on the store’s carpet, imprinted with the markings of a thousand holiday shoppers’ shoes, a rectangular rainbow appears from the perfect configuration of light coming through the window through some prism I cannot see.

“Look at it.  Just look at it!”  She moves her feet and hands within the rainbow, and I do the same.  The light on our skin makes us blaze with a spectrum of colors.  She’s filled with wonder at this rainbow on the floor.

It cost me nothing.

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Spiritual and Stylish Too?

Today, my very stylish sister takes me shopping.  I used to be stylish–maybe 20 years ago–when I had the means, the time, and the desire to look my best.  While my internal flair has grown exponentially this year, my external style needs help. 

I’m too tired, too old, to be cute.  

I’m too spiritual to be stylish. I’m too academic, too poetic. 

But there’s a part of me that I’ve left behind somewhere.  My external flair has turned to. . . frump.   

So my sister has me in a dressing room at a very stylish store.  As I pull on layers of beautiful clothing, I’m surprised at what my heart feels.  

It feels wonderful to be in these clothes.

And then it feels awful that it feels so wonderful.  I know that life is not found in clothing; I know that true joy will never come from a shopping trip.  Living with flair means I find my true self in relation to God, not this soft pink sweater or these jeans that somehow make me look like I’m 18 years old again.  Besides, I’m on a tight budget.  Who can afford these things?  

I’m looking at price tags and frowning.  My sister sings out as she shoves more clothing into the dressing room:  “It’s all 40% off!  We can buy a whole new outfit!”

I have a whimsical shopping bag tied with a bright bow with new jeans and a pink sweater.  As we leave the store, I mention to my sister that I feel guilty feeling so happy about an outfit.  I don’t shop.  I never buy new clothes.  I’m above that pull of materialism and addictive consumerism.  I don’t need these things. 

My sister reminds me that I’ve swung the pendulum too far.  She tells me I can celebrate being a woman in ways that showcase my unique style and elegance.  It’s not ungodly to dress well.

I’m still figuring this all out.  I know there are wise and balanced ways to be stylish, and I want to learn them.

Do you have any advice for me on this journey?  How do you balance spending money on clothes while keeping perspective on what matters most in life?  Do you fear shopping addiction and materialism too? 

(It didn’t help when I asked the saleswoman for her advice about my guilty feelings.  She said, “Oh, those? Don’t worry.  They go away in a couple hours.”)

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