Monday, December 1, 2008

Random Thoughts on Excess and Chaos...

I've been away from my blog for awhile and will post some photos of the holiday weekend soon...

But I felt compelled to comment about two incidents that occurred over the holidays:

Trampling at Wal-Mart

I've never indulged in "Black Friday" shopping madness. It's just not my idea of fun to wade into frantic, greedy crowds just to save a few dollars. The most I've ever done is take my kids to the downtown Macy's after the post-Thanksgiving holiday parade, and that was enough of a crazy holiday crush to last me for years.

I was just commenting to a coworker the other day that I believe the greediness of Americans has contributed to our current economic crisis, because people do not seem to be able to live within their means. I was raised on the philosophy that it's best to pay off your credit cards every month, and the only "good" debts were a mortgage or college loans. I'm grateful that my parents taught me to live within my means, because although we don't have a fancy house or new cars, we are comfortable and relatively secure during this economic crisis.

So greed. I read this article recently about a Florida mom who decided to forgo designer jeans for herself so that she could buy everything her daughter's heart desires for Christmas. “I want her to be able to look back,” Ms. Hunt declared, “and say, ‘Even though they were tough times, my mom was still able to give me stuff.’" Because isn't that the most important thing for a child to remember about her childhood? That her mother could "give her stuff"???? And not just one or two presents, but everything on her Christmas list (including a "grand walk-in kitchen" that retails for $250??).

My family didn't have tons of money when I was growing up, but I received a "big" present every Christmas. Often it was purchased secondhand and something I could use on a daily basis--a stereo, or a bicycle--and I was delighted with my gifts.

I'm not saying I'm innocent when it comes to buying my kids "stuff," but I'm making a conscious effort to scale back even more than before. The majority of toys that come into our house rarely get played with, and soon they end up as more clutter.

So back to the subject of greed. I have no words for what happened at Wal-Mart. I cannot fathom the idea of standing in line for hours for a completely insane mad rush to save a few bucks so that I can spoil myself or my children. And then to show absolutely no regard for the man who lost his life, when Wal-Mart tried to usher the customers out the door? No words. I can only hope that those conscience-lacking shoppers feel some shred of shame at their greediness and sheer disregard for human life.

Tragedy in Mumbai

Our travels to India in 1989 did not take us to Mumbai (Bombay at the time), but some friends of ours, Corey and Nandita, travel regularly to that city. They were foremost in my mind when I heard the news about the terrorist attack there--since I knew they had planned to go to India in November. Also on my mind were Corey's parents, Neal and Annette, who were scheduled to be en route from Mexico to Costa Rica by bus around the time the attacks occurred--presumably out of touch with communications. What a horrible uncertainty for parents to experience!

Thank God, Corey and Nandita had left the day before. But what was most disturbing was learning how much time they had spent in that hotel during their visit. Corey said that he saw two chairs on the TV in which they had sat. A friend of theirs from school, an Indian police officer, had been killed. A close call, to say the least.

As Corey said via e-mail, "the world has turned upside down." When we visited India in the late 1980s, we had to change our original travel plans because of tension with Pakistan over Kashmir (where we wanted to visit). The powder keg building between India and Pakistan could explode in this, India's 9/11.

I am hoping that the U.S. and other countries can use their influence to wage peace between those countries. Hillary Clinton, our new Secretary-of-State-elect, could have her hands full there.

Let's hope that more than a few people pause to reflect on the irony and insanity of Americans trampling a minimum-wage worker to save a few bucks, while people were being held hostage and terrorized in Mumbai.

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