“More please?” This iconic request in the musical Oliver does not end well for the young lad. Oliver is hungry, yet his request for a second helping of a meager meal pits him against the establishment, eventually landing him on the mean streets of London.
This past week my family and I were in New York City. The City and surrounding areas are still recuperating from the devastation of Hurricane Sandy, yet there is a sense of normalcy as I saw the holiday activities and decorations found throughout the City. The hustle and bustle of people shopping, working and decorating were all around Times Square, Rockefeller Center and the 5th Avenue shops. Normalcy is an important component in recovery from a disaster, and I was pleased to see people trying their best to move forward. Of course evidence of the damage from the storm was observed in the physical surroundings as well as in the numbers of people still in shelters and on the streets with signs asking for help. It is a contrast not to go unnoticed.
Why were we in NYC? Our daughter had the privilege to dance in the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade this past Thanksgiving Day! She was a dancer in the company leading the Santa float into Macy’s. The theme for this year’s parade was “Believe”. A reference to the new Yes, Virginia a musical, the re-telling of the iconic story of the young girl, Virginia, inquiring about the reality of Santa Claus. How appropriate a theme, “Believe”, as NYC struggles to move forward after the storm. How appropriate also for this holiday time of the year.
Starting with Thanksgiving we now enter that time of the year where we celebrate family and a sense of peace on the road to Christmas day and later New Year’s Eve/day. What a special and joyous time of the year! Many of us can recall those wonderfully special moments we shared as a child, now, as adults, seeing that same joy, wonder and amazement through the eyes of children! Remembering our past and viewing the present through the eyes of children hopefully help us all to “Believe”. But what do we “believe” this time of year?
This past Thursday, Thanksgiving Day, many in NYC lined the streets to see the Macy’s parade, while many others were preparing feasts for family and friends. Most of us were in a spirit of joy, peace and thankfulness. We recalled all we have, and cherished those with whom we gathered. All was right in the world. Then came Friday, the next “holiday” aptly termed “Black Friday”.
I am well aware of the origin of the term “Black Friday” in that it references the bottom-line budgetary profits for businesses selling goods. But, in the behavior of many, “Black Friday” appears aptly termed. How many news stories did you see telling about chaos, fights, stabbings, shootings, thefts, and the like as people swarmed and stormed local stores for “savings”. What happened to the joy and peace of the previous day? What happened to the sense of thankfulness? What about the sense of “Believe”? How is it that we have turned the holiday season of wonderment, joy and peace into darkness?
Oliver Twist respectfully asked for more food; Virginia wanted something special to believe in. What is our attitude of gratitude and sharing? I do not write this because I am against consumerism nor capitalism. I, like others, benefit from an economy based on people spending their money. My concern focuses on our perspective and intentions. Do the goods I feel I need take over my life? What are my priorities in life? Does family and faith come first or my need to acquire more things?
In Christian scripture we read about Jesus speaking against money and physical goods. It isn’t so much that Jesus is against money and goods, rather, He is challenging us to keep the proper perspective Do we rely on God or our things? What is more important in our life, pushing and shoving the day after Thanksgiving, or enjoying family, thanking God for what we have and sharing with those in need.
How can we challenge ourselves, in such a materialistic society, to “Believe” in those parts of our lives greater than ourselves, namely, family, society, religion. How do you, on a daily basis, spread to others a sense of wonderment and “belief”? Please take a moment and reflect on your perspective? How would you respond to Oliver and Virginia?