Not too long ago, the wife and I both got smart phones, and they are now firmly implanted as part of our lives. Annoyingly implanted—I love it and I hate it. Every once in a while, I realize just how addicted I have gotten to my phone. I recently went to the Sprint store (by the way, thanks a lot, Sprint, for coming out with the iPhone now that I’m already locked into this Android for a year—you scoundrels) and was without my phone for about 10 minutes… I reached in my pocket for it about 6 times. I laughed at myself for forgetting, but each time it got a little less funny. It’s mostly the “down time” that gets me. Like if I’m by myself waiting for someone at a restaurant, or even if I’m sitting at a traffic light that I know is going to be about 3 minutes—I can’t even remember what it’s like to sit on the toilet without something in my hands. A phone, I mean…
Bil Keane, the creator of Family Circus, died recently. Now I have never been much of a fan of Family Circus—Even as a kid, it was always a little too vanilla for my taste (I’m much more of a Calvin & Hobbes sort of guy), but there was one comic I read as a kid that stayed with me. This one had someone (I think it was the mom) praying a prayer where the only things in the prayer were things she was thankful for. Then, above them, (in a classic Family Circus sort of way) there were a bunch of angels who were working an old-school telephone operator’s board—connecting call lines with headsets on—and the angel that got that “call” had this happy/shocked look on her face. She started bragging to the other angels that she had a person who wasn’t asking for anything. An actual prayer where the person praying didn’t want anything other than to express her gratitude and thankfulness. The angels had a little celebration… I sometimes think of that cartoon this time of year.
Thanksgiving is just around the corner. I love Thanksgiving. I frickin’ love it—the food, the family, the football, the fighting—All of it. It is precious to me. From the way the stuffing mixes with the turkey, to the way the levy breaks on the mashed potatoes and the gravy flows into your green bean casserole but you don’t mind at all, to the way you know you’ll regret eating one more bite, but you know there’s football on and there will be time to digest…. I think that the preciousness of Thanksgiving to me is the main reason I hate “Black Friday” so much.
Thanksgiving is not a starting gun. We have got so many things to be thankful for and one little holiday to celebrate it. Does the day celebrating America’s decadence, consumerism, and bowing to the golden calf really have to be placed right next to Thanksgiving? I mean, the food has barely settled, and in the middle of the night people are getting trampled and sent to the hospital trying to save $20 on a BlueRay player. It almost seems like Black Friday has been intentionally placed next to our one day for thanks–“Alright, that’s enough contentment for one year! Now shop, monkeys! SHOP!!!!”
When I worked at Camp, there was a little ice cream shop called “The Scoop” that we would go to for a special treat. The people who worked there were so kind, and their cones were giant—Nobody needed more than one scoop. One Spring, they started construction on a Dairy Queen about half a block away from The Scoop, and we were mad. It was a small little town, and we figured this spelled the end for our precious mom & pop ice cream shop. We would drive by and yell things at that Dairy Queen that would get a guy arrested post 9/11…. Black Friday positioning itself right next to Thanksgiving is like that stupid, corporate Dairy Queen setting up shop right next to The Scoop.
My sister-in-law and I don’t always see eye-to-eye on everything–If we’re appetizers, she’s more quinoa salad, and I’m more Ruffles and french onion dip. Anyway, she just sent out a message to the family about Thanksgiving Dinner that I think is brilliant. She expressed her desire for us all to be “fully present,” and asked if we would go on an “eDiet” for Thanksgiving day—meaning leaving computers and smart phones out of the mix. SO AWESOME. I didn’t need any more convincing, but she even quoted Jerry Seinfeld in making a case for why this would be a good idea. I think she and Jerry are really on to something.
There is a connection between pulling out a cell phone during Thanksgiving and Black Friday’s horning in on the Thanksgiving Holiday–It’s a kind of irreverence. Have you ever looked around recently at a get-together of family or friends and noticed one of those moments where more people are looking at screens than looking at each other? Every once in a while, we have “game night” at our house. It’s basically just a bunch of friends sitting around and trying to make each other laugh. Sometimes, if we’re laughing hard enough at people’s stories, we might not even make it to games. There have been many times when a whole room full of people have had tears rolling down their cheeks and struggled to breathe from laughing so hard–It’s like a drug. These times of community as precious to me as a Thanksgiving meal.
So, if we could–even if it’s just for one day–let’s spend our time looking at each other instead of a screen. Let’s have our conversations be spoken and not texted. Let’s speak to each other, and speak nothing of sales or deals or waking up at 3:00 AM to stand in a line. Let’s drink in the increasingly rare time that is spent with family, with all its joy and frustration and sweetness and disfunction. And for the love, if you take a nap, let it not be so you are awake enough to make it to Target at midnight…. Let it be for the old-fashioned reason–A tryptophan-laced food coma and a soft couch.
So in the spirit of Bil Keane and Family Circus, I submit this Thanksgiving prayer:
God–Thank you! Thank you for this home-made food that didn’t require someone else to work on Thanksgiving and force them to miss this special time with their loved ones. Thank you for actual conversation with family and friends instead of the lesser relationship and counterfeit community that is Facebook. Thank you that my knee doesn’t hurt right now (whenever I hurt it, I think about how I wish I was more thankful for all of the time that it works perfectly–like today). Thank you for being a God who loves us, despite how shitty we can be to you, to each other, and to ourselves. And thank you in advance for answering “Yes” to the prayer I prayed yesterday, when I asked you to help the Lions win.