It is amazing how fast the holiday season is approaching. I normally do my shopping within our local community. I m not a big fan of the mall for a variety of reasons. Our local merchants are very attentive and really appreciate our business. Supporting them is a wonderful way of supporting and strengthening our local economy. Although you may pay more for certain things, the care and attentiveness you receive is invaluable.
Recently, I had to go to the mall to get something that was not available locally. It was a culture shock. I probably had not been in the mall since last Christmas. It was a Friday afternoon after school. Surprisingly it was packed, especially with high school and middle school age young people. It was only October and many of the big chain stores already have Christmas displays and Christmas items for sale.
There is something strange about Christmas in October. I definitely did not feel the holiday spirit as I walked throughout the mall and through different stores. People clearly were not happy. It was obvious that some were spending money they didn t have, on things they didn t need, for people they couldn t stand.
That was very obvious to me as I waited on a long checkout line. Two people before me were moaning and groaning about gifts they had to get. It sounded like they were getting gifts out of obligation rather than choice and that they felt little or no affection for the person who would be receiving the gift.
The sense of phoniness that seems to be infecting our culture is very troubling. How often during the holiday season do we send a greeting card only because we received a greeting card or do we give a gift only because we know we will receive a gift? There is definitely something wrong with that kind of thinking.
Whether it s Christmastime or anytime of the year, we should send a gift because we want to send a gift and expect nothing in return. The same is true of a card or a kind note, it should be sent from the heart not because we feel obligated or will receive one in return.
As I walked through the mall to my car, I felt like I was participating in live theater. There were all kinds of groups of young people expressing themselves. Sometimes loudly, but nonetheless expressing themselves and groups of adults making less than charitable comments about them.
Most of the comments centered on their looks and appearances. This particular day, the young people ran the gamut from the preppy all-American look to the punk rock look to everything in between. There was purple hair and a young man with a fascinating porcupine hairdo. Some had more body piercings that one could count; others were a tattoo artist s delight.
There were teenagers in clothes so tight that I could not imagine how they were breathing. Others wore clothes so loose that five people could ve fit in the outfit with them, and of course there are always those who were scantily dressed. They were doing cartwheels and other gymnastic activities as well singing and laughing.
Honestly, they seemed happy and connected to each other. Clearly, they were not hurting anyone. However, some of the adults made it clear as I walked past them that they were highly offended by the teenagers looks and expressive behavior. Yes, some of the expletives that rolled off their lips were inappropriate. Nothing I hadn t heard and that I haven t heard uttered from the mouths of adults. It seems to me that we lead by example.
All of the stores, big and small alike, spend an awful lot of money on advertising. They try to seduce the average mall walker to enter the store and spend money they don t have, on things they don t need and leave feeling like they got a bargain! Wouldn t it be interesting, if they spent 10% of their advertising budget on a charitable cause on something to benefit the young people in the area, or possibly have the mall sponsor a project to benefit area young people?
Many of the new shops in the mall cater to younger patrons. Obviously, many of the younger patrons do not have the funds to purchase the merchandise that is being marketed. However, their parents do. Many don t like young people hanging out at the mall, but it is a double-edged sword since many of these young people directly and indirectly are responsible for big business.
Although many adults do not like the social choices teenagers make, most teenagers are honest with their opinions. Unlike adults, they don t play to the crowd. They tell it like it is or at least, as they see it.
As I got back into my car, and began my sojourn back to Port Jefferson in rush-hour traffic, I could not help but reflect on my adventure. Too often, we judge a book by its cover. Our kids tend to give us the benefit of the doubt and go beyond the false face or mask that we too often wear. They also tend to be honest in their opinions and are unafraid to express them.
The mall adventure also reminded me of all the extremes that tend to infect us and cause us to lose sight of what s really important. The holiday season, no matter what one s religion or philosophical perspective, is not about buying things and getting things, but rather, it is about so much more. It s about people, relationships and connecting with one another in ways that oftentimes get sidetracked during the year.
This holiday season this year is probably going to be more stressful than last year because almost everyone has less material resources to work with. Hopefully, that will cause all of us to take pause and think about what is really important during this time of year. We should not feel badly because we do not have money to spend on things for people who would probably better appreciate a kind card or a few encouraging words.
While crossing over the railroad tracks into Port Jefferson Village, I had a deep sense of gratitude for a community that is exceptionally generous to so many charitable causes and for merchants that make you feel like shopping at home is really valued and where we should be!