Love Amidst Consumerism

by Belinda Munoz on December 23, 2009

love amidst consumerism

No, no, no.  I’m not looking for romantic love.  I’ve clinched that a long time ago.  I’m talking about something less one-on-one, more come-one-come-y’all.

First, a little background.  I’ve developed an aversion for shopping over the past years.  I’ve grown to dislike parting with fists full of benjamins in exchange for stuff that doesn’t bring me any lasting sense of fulfillment, or meaning, or belonging.  Honestly, I would pay a personal shopper if I could.  Or better yet, I wouldn’t buy anything at all if I could.  But alas, not in this society of consumable goods (and bads) we inhabit…

Buying gifts for others, yes, I can deal with a lot easier.

So, this year, I procrastinated on buying Christmas gifts for everyone on my list until this past weekend.

Nightmare, you think?

But wait.  Au contraire, mon frere (ma soeur).  It wasn’t at all about getting elbowed and kicked and trampled and raced to the counter.  Not even once.

It was more like a leisurely stroll, a cup of chamomile tea with honey in hand, and a bevy of smiles, deep discounts and stellar customer service all around.  Seriously.  I had a very pleasant experience participating in this human-made thing we call consumerism.  I even had time to sneak a matinee in between!

WHAT COUNTS?

Maybe it’s luck.  Maybe it’s karma.  Maybe it’s imagined.  Who knows.  What I do know is I let myself get caught up not in the madness but instead, in the true spirit of the season.  I let go of any pressure to find the perfect gift for everyone on my list.  Rather, I focused on the old saying, “It’s the thought that counts.”  For, in reality, it’s not just an old saying.  As trite as it may seem, more than the perfectly wrapped gift, more than the amount of money spent, it’s ultimately what many of us hope for, long for, and appreciate knowing.

To be thought of, to be remembered, to be included as one of many beloved ones on a list — that in itself is a valuable gift.

GOODS AND GOOD

As I meandered the paths in and out of shops with enticing windows, I saw not just goods but also good:

  • Shop workers bending over backwards to make customers happy.  It could be that they’re paid on commission, or that their performance is under constant scrutiny.  But it was hard to ignore the sincerity among the retail workers who were eager to help, to greet me in a friendly manner and to thank me whether or not I made a purchase.
  • Customers were compassionate and considerate of the workers who were most likely working extended hours.  I didn’t witness any angry customers; no yelling, no profanity, no dagger looks.  Instead, everyone patiently waited their turn to receive service.
  • Big tippers.  I saw folks giving money not just to cafe and restaurant staff but also to the poor.  Folks were slipping bills into the Salvation Army tin cans and dropping coats into bins designated for One Warm Coat.


WARMTH FROM A CUP OF TEA AND MORE

And as I sipped my cup of chamomile tea with honey, I felt not just its warmth but also the warmth of the holiday season.  A season whose magic I’m sure I’ve outgrown when I’m most at my logical, thinking, reasoning state.

And yet.  And yet, here I am writing about the tenderness that it brings about in others.  Strangers crowding the shops amid last-minute frenzy, checking long lists of loved ones, careful not to leave anybody out.  And here I am writing about the tenderness it brings about in me.  Too jaded to find any real joy in things money can buy at malls, but thankfully not too jaded to witness the love that’s there behind the mall mania madness; the love that’s everywhere, if we keep our eyes open.

If you’re reading this post, I thank you for clicking and I wish you much love this season and beyond.

Image by 1Happysnapper(is trying to catch up)

{ 6 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Pop and Ice December 23, 2009 at 4:08 am

A tea drinker with a Christmas attitude I can get behind! I did most of my shopping online this year which was relatively stress free. However, I do have to put in a few hours today to help my Dad purchase a gift for my daughter since he “thought” he ordered her something on Amazon (wrong – I checked his account). so I will brave the crowds today AND reward myself with a pedicure this evening. And be pleasant to sales help, but that’s my norm anyway.

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2 Jeanne December 23, 2009 at 11:09 am

Belinda, thanks for sharing a remarkable experience! I ditto the reluctance to get caught up in the holiday shopping frenzy — but wow, you make me want to go out shopping just so I can also witness the warmth and kindness and goodness in that crowd of people, and have an experience of something I thought was long gone.

You wrote a REALLY GOOD THING today, applause applause!

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3 Fr. Michael December 24, 2009 at 7:08 am

Consumerism is part of our culture, particularly during this time of year. But, as you witnessed, maybe people are beginning to slow and down and trying to “be a light in the darkness” even in the midst of the Christmas frenzy. Thanks for sharing these insights.

Merry Christmas!

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4 Madeleine December 26, 2009 at 6:30 pm

I enyoyed reading this because I also have an aversion to shopping. My daughter has taken to sending me an email with links to a gift or two which she’d like.

But this year I did no shopping at all. My BF and I are in the midst of moving to the east coast where he starts a new job in a few weeks. My daughter is going to Europe to work on a project as part of her studies and sensibly asked for some money for the trip.

All so exciting, stressful and exhausting that we couldn’t manage a traditional celebration. But we’ll have lots to celebrate in a month or so. Happy New Year, Belinda!

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5 Bob Bessette December 27, 2009 at 7:57 am

Belinda,
I’m so glad I got to know you this past year. You are a true jewel out there in that you can certainly get across your point in unparalleled fashion. I agree with you that it did seem to me that there was a positivity out there this past season during the shopping season. I don’t buy a lot as it is mostly done by my wife but there was a friendliness that I haven’t experienced in years past.
I look forward to reading your blog in the coming year and I want to wish much “joy” to you and yours this year!

Best,
Bob

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6 Malo December 28, 2009 at 4:40 pm

Belinda, thank you for always coming up with timely and refreshing stories.

The true meaning of Christmas tends to get lost in consumerism. It started when we were kids, and then we’ve acquired the habit as we mature, and before we know it, we’re caught in this vicious cycle of frenzy gift giving. I’m sure that most of us would really just want to spend quality time with the people we care.

We should remember the days when we had no means to splurge, when getting together and sharing a midnight meal while listening to Christmas carolers were enough. Those were happy memories.

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