27 November 2013

consumerism and giving thanks.

We all get the warm fuzzies around Thanksgiving and Christmas, particularly when we think about the things for which we are thankful. But as with all good things, there's always a flip side. With Thanksgiving, it comes almost immediately afterward…


no thank you.

Now, many people, journalists, and celebrities have already begun their diatribes against Black Friday, so I won't join the fray. I just wanted to say a few words about the dichotomy between giving thanks and mass consumerism in the United States, especially around the holidays. 

If you're American and you're reading this blog post, you likely will agree with the statement that you've grown up in a world where having stuff is valued. The accumulation of stuff is important. There's a lot of pressure to give stuff to people for birthdays and holidays. You should also have a good amount of stuff in your bank account. 


But when does it become too much? When is it just stuff for stuff's sake? 

When I was younger, my parents made me watch the Veggie Tales series, a Christian-based series of videos made to teach children about the values of love, peace, patience, simplicity, and many, many more. I'm thinking of the episode entitled, "Stuff Mart." In this episode, salesmen at the Stuff Mart are introducing all of the things they sell and expounding on the importance of having material possessions. One of the songs includes the following lyrics: 

What we've mentioned are only just some
Of the wonderful things yet to come
These pictures you keep are so… nice
But you really should take our advice
Happiness waits at the Stuff Mart!
All you need is lots… more… stuff!
You really, really ought to!
How could I afford not to?
Happiness waits at the Stuff Mart!
All you need is lots… more… stuff!

But does having more stuff truly make us happy? I look back at the short list I created last week and see that none of these "items" are actually items. They are people. Or experiences. It's rare that a material good brings me long-lasting happiness.


And this seems to be reflected in research and news articles documenting wealth and consumerism in the United States today:

Bottom Line: I don't want to live in a country where people physically fight over the newest toy at Walmart on Black Friday, just 24 hours after we're called to give thanks for what we have. I don't want children to grow up thinking that their worth is based on what they own. I want everyone in the world to be able to afford to eat, obtain an education, and have a roof over their heads. I want people to be judged by their character, not by their car, their clothes, or their bank account.

some not-so-subliminal messaging for you...

Let's take a moment this Thanksgiving to reflect on our "need" for stuff. "Should I really buy that? Do I really need one more dress, just because it's new? What about the millions of the people in the world who can't even afford their basic needs? What is at the root of my penchant to constantly buy?"

Oh, and let's give thanks.


  1. Great post! Sounds like y'all should maybe be missionaries to the U.S.!

    1. Thanks, Michael Mattair! And word on the streets is that you guys have a blog? Can we get an invite please?