On the day before Halloween, I put summer clothes into storage and pulled out winter things. I was using the de-cluttering advice of “rid your closet of anything you haven’t worn in a year,” so I filled three grocery bags with items to donate. Later that day I added my three bags to some other things we no longer needed and headed to the local Goodwill. Apparently everyone else in my town had decided to do the same thing that afternoon.
I navigated the packed parking lot and finally found a spot. Feeling pretty good about our family’s paring down, I grabbed our items from the trunk and headed into the store’s designated area for donations. I couldn’t believe what I saw. The donation area was full to overflowing, with more being carried in from every angle. As I got my donation receipt and headed back to my car, I watched people bringing in bags upon boxes filled with the flotsam and jetsam of their lives.
What did all this stuff represent? Was the huge plastic snowman lawn ornament all that was left from a holiday celebration that went sour? Were the elderly woman’s clothes and jewelry cast off after her solitary death, a burden for a family member to discard? Did the books, CDs and DVDs come with unfulfilled dreams?
A picture formed in my mind. So many of us lead lives cluttered by far too much stuff, so much stuff that we carry it to Goodwill by the carload. Some of the stuff weighs us down. Some of it gets in the way of healthy relationships. Some of it leads us to the brink of financial ruin.
So here we are on Black Friday, the second act in what some have dubbed the American season of excess (the first being the gluttonous meals we all consumed yesterday).
Last year shoppers spent $890 million on Cyber Monday, the Internet version of Black Friday. Really? Given that, it seems we really don’t care that 13% of people in the United States live in poverty or that nearly 1 in 4 children in the U.S. live in homes that struggle to put food on the table.
Don’t get me wrong. I’m not suggesting that we boycott Christmas. But spending inordinate amounts of money on things we really don’t need while others go hungry doesn’t ring true with Mary’s Magnificat that we Christians will sing again this season. I’m just saying.