Freedom From Want

Norman Rockwell's Freedom From Want - hanging on the wall in our hall

I have worked my share of holidays over the years.

So I “get” that some people have to work holidays.

In my case, it was during my years as a public radio journalist.

My colleagues and I would barter and trade those holiday board shifts (“I’ll work Thanksgiving if you work Christmas Eve…”)  – making sure the music and news continued to flow across the airwaves and our FCC-required tower power and light checks were done according to the law.

For the most part, the programming was pre-recorded and the news stories were “evergreen” – written and produced in advance.

There was updated weather and the occasional “breaking news” story to share. We stood ready to implement the emergency broadcasting system.

I generally volunteered to work the morning news drive on New Year’s Day. I don’t drink alcohol, so it really didn’t cramp my style to be up and ready to go early on January 1st.

We don’t have to look far to see people working on holidays.

When you turn on your TV to watch the Macy’s Day parade or a college football bowl game or a showing of “It’s a Wonderful Life”, somebody, somewhere, is working the holiday shift.

Of course lots of people work in areas of health and safety – nursing homes, hospitals, police, fire protection and utilities.

Given all that, why am I so appalled at the trend towards retail stores opening on Thanksgiving Day?

And – let me be up front- I am appalled.

I think it has to do with the type of activity and what it represents.

It represents a crass move to individual “convenience” over a sense of family and community.

It represents a “what-I-want-when-I want-it” worldview or an “I-am-bored-hanging-out-with-you” outlook over a worldview that values “let’s-stop-a-moment-and-reflect-on-what-matters” and a worldview of “you-are-worth-spending-time-with.”

We’ve gone from “Freedom From Want” to “Freedom To Want.”

And I don’t like it.

I understand. It’s not about me and what I “like”.

But I can’t help but symbolically weep for the person who has to work for no good reason – who has to be away from family and tradition – not in order to stand ready to alert the public about a pending weather system or breaking news or to put out a fire or to care for a surgery patient or to rescue a stranded motorist or to fill a prescription – but to sell somebody a discounted DVD player or pair of pants.

Where we had a sense of shared community – family gathering for a meal and to visit, friends hunting together, an entire nation watching together as high school bands from around the country marched through the streets of New York – we now have an individual forced to stand behind a cash register to sell another individual something they could have bought the day before or the day after.

It’s a shame.

Shame on the stores who will be open Thanksgiving Day.

And shame on anyone who goes there to buy nonessential items.

Turns out YOU are the Thanksgiving turkey.

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