A lot of people say what they are thankful for at this time of year. I will get to that eventually, but what I really need to talk about is what I am THINK-ful for. It appears that the holidays have become less and less about family, values, time, and love and more about what you can get, when you can get it, and how much you can get it to cost. This point was driven home for me when I saw a commercial saying that some store would be open at 8pm on Thanksgiving. What the heck!? You would take away an employee from their family to come make sales for you? You would leave your family for 20% off the new whatever-madoogle? How much are companies really making and how much are customers really saving? This got me to thinking about my own partial occupation in retail and what this time of year is really about.
It is easy to list what you are thankful for and what you have. But sometimes the holidays can also make blatantly clear what you do not have. Maybe you don't have money, maybe you don't have the job you want, or maybe you don't have a significant other to cuddle with on a snow day. Whatever it may be, there is just as much sadness at the holidays as there is cheer, hope, and wonder. This point is particularly significant to me because I work in an industry that encourages people to consistently think about what they do not have. Is corporate America and consumerism ruining tradition? Are we forgetting the people in exchange for the price? This begs the question, "Who are the people?"
The answer is different for everyone, but I try and think of it like this. Many times this year I have needed a real friend and I have been blessed with several who are always there saying exactly what I need and being exactly what I need. I am thankful for my friend who let me stay at her house while I waited for an apartment even though she just had a baby and started a new relationship. She was there, helpful, loving, and even allowed me to stay for free. I am thankful for my friend who, although we moved apart takes time to check in and have coffee with me; who drops everything on a Sunday to do my hair so even in my darkest hour I can find that shred of confidence. I am thankful for my friend who sends me a thank-you card not knowing it would come at exactly the right time, and who calls me at way-too-late east coast time to make sure I am ok. I am thankful for my friends who meet up with me at the drop of a hat when I am upset. I am thankful for my mom and dad, who know precisely when to talk, when to listen, and when to say "ok I will pay for the shirt." I am thankful for my sister, who is finally coming home. I am even thankful for the people who have exited my life, for what they shared with me, for what I learned, and for how I can be better in the future.
As I think about these people, among the many others who make my life meaningful, I realize that in some way, all these people are customers. The girl who buys the new dress may be the girl who calls her friend at way-too-early west coast time to make sure her friend is ok. The girl who tries on every boot may be the girl who came home from her first job to spend some time with her family. If I think about it this way, it becomes a little easier to swallow that yes, I have to go to bed early on Thanksgiving so I can work on Black Friday. I have often said that everyone has a story, and for as many mean people I get in my store I get just as many caring ones who keep a dress on the hanger so we can put it right back out on the floor when they return it. To me, no matter what the situation, the holidays are about caring for people.
In conclusion, not every customer will be the person who makes it seem alright to work on Thanksgiving, Christmas Eve, etc. But I truly believe, that sometimes the shopping experience can really provide an avenue for people to bond, get to know each other, and have a really good laugh. I hope that every person shopping on Thanksgiving is considerate of the employee who left their table to make some magic for you, and I hope that every person working this holiday season sees the light in all of their customers, for better or worse. I am fortunate to have a lot to be thankful and think-ful for this Thanksgiving and I look forward to both the work and the rest, even if it will mean extra gym time to work off my love of stuffing and sweet potatoes. Happy Thanksgiving!