The Call of the Mall

My very favorite time of the year is the holiday period stretching from Thanksgiving to Christmas and continuing through New Year’s, yet I was reminded the other day of the crass commercialism that threatens to turn the holidays into anything but “holy days.”

My wife and I watched with a mixture of humor and horror the frenzied rush of shoppers overwhelming retailers on what has become the biggest shopping day of the year. And as we observed, we couldn’t help but think that the day after Thanksgiving has become a victim of the twin thieves of thankfulness: speed and greed.

As long ago as the 1830s, the French writer Alexis de Tocqueville blamed the shopping instinct for jacking up the pace of life: “He who has set his heart exclusively upon the pursuit of worldly welfare is always in a hurry, for he has but a limited time at his disposal to reach, to grasp, and to enjoy it.”

And Kent Nerburn writes in Simple Truths: Clear & Gentle Guidance on the Big Issues in Life: “Unwittingly, we have allowed ourselves to be trapped by the thrill of the hunt. In our excitement we have forgotten that the pursuit of most possessions is nothing more than that—a pursuit—and have allowed ourselves to believe that our happiness would be increased by the next possession we acquire.”

As for me and mine, we intend to avoid the call of the mall, and hearken instead to the still small voice calling us to a kinder, gentler pace. If you are racing to and fro this holiday season in a vain attempt to find peace in presents, do yourself a favor and remember this helpful proverb: “Better is a handful with quietness, than both hands full with travail and vexation of spirit.”