On the busiest shopping day of the year, frantic shoppers stampeded into a Long Island Wal-Mart and trampled a 34-year-old employee to death. When I read this in my morning paper while drinking coffee, I became sick to my stomach.
At 5 a.m. on Friday morning after Thanksgiving, shoppers who had been standing in line all night surged through the doors to get into a Long Island Wal-Mart. They knocked down Jdimytai Damour, a 34-year-old man and trampled him to death. When other employees came to his rescue and tried to close the doors, the shoppers, not wanting to miss out on this big sale, became irate yelling, “I’ve been in line since yesterday morning.”
Hollywood and Madison Avenue have persuaded us that the spirit of the Christmas season we must spend lavishly or risk being found insufficiently appreciative of our loved ones. Sophisticated marketing forces have produced a shopping day now called “Black Friday.” Advertisers have excelled in creating a sense of shortage and an anxiety that if you don’t get out early on this day, you’re going to miss out on fantastic bargains. In these times of economic anxiety, this message has a special appeal.
When slick commercialism and salesmanship become the spirit of Christmas, values and compassion go out the window and are replaced by fear and anger. By not wanting to go home empty-handed, we come home instead empty-hearted.
I was sick at heart…and then I read about Earl Stafford, the founder of a Virginia technology company, who bought a Washington D.C. hotel package for $1 million. He got 300 rooms, four suites, 200K worth of food and drinks, and a view from Pennsylvania Avenue overlooking the Inaugural Parade route. Stafford plans to invite wounded soldiers, the poor, down on their luck, and terminally ill to celebrate with him. He’s planning to spend another $600,000 for breakfast, lunch and two balls at the hotel.
Stafford, one of 12 children of a Baptist minister, he said he wanted to do this because “we’ve gotten away from our core values… we just need to get back to caring about one another.”
Just when I was feeling sickest, here comes a guy who reminds me that it is possible to create a Christmas stampede that ennobles the human spirit.