Growing up in the Commonwealth (Canada) meant that the day after Christmas is Boxing Day. Some people claim that the bank holiday was created for the servants, who typically had to work on Christmas Day. Their employers would give them gifts in boxes as they left to spend time with their own families. Other theories say the church alms boxes for the poor were opened on the day after Christmas.
Moving to the U.S. meant saying good-bye to Boxing Day … and hello to Black Friday, the madness that is the day-after Thanksgiving. For years, I watched from a safe distance (on TV!) as people rushed through doors — stampeding in the dark before dawn — to get their hands on the Tickle Me Elmo, the newer new Xbox, the flat-screens televisions, and on.
Now there are more shopping “holidays” added to the list: Small Business Saturday and, of course, Cyber Monday. Then there’s the fact that this year some stores opened at midnight (and earlier!) on Thanksgiving. Yes, yes, we’re living in a material world and all that, but what about holding on to the gratitude part of things for a few more days?
I was thinking about all of this on Sunday evening, when I decided to check out 60 Minutes on Sunday. That’s when I was punched in throat by this heartbreaking story about families, severely affected by the economic downturn, forced to live in their cars. Reporter Scott Pelley talks to a few families, but it was the children that he interviewed who really twist your heart.
One set of kids, the Metzgers, really stuck with me. The two — Arielle,15, and her brother Austin, 13 — are being raised by their father. The mother died when they were younger. Made to be wiser and more sober than any teenagers should ever be, these two children were remarkable. When asked whether they were embarrassed about living in a truck, the daughter said:
Yeah it’s not really that much an embarrassment. I mean, it’s only life. You do what you need to do, right?
This young girl, so full of grace and promise, made me feel hopeful. She made me thankful, grateful for all the goodness and opportunity surrounding me. I woke up this morning, still thinking about her, her family and the millions of other children living day-to-day in “hidden America.”
Then I came across this update to the Metzgers‘ story: they’ve been offered several places to live! People have even offered to pay the family’s rent*. And job offers have also been coming in for the father. It makes my soul sing to see human kindness in action. No big enough words to describe it, actually.
So maybe after Black Friday and Small Business Saturday and Cyber Monday, we can go back to being thankful on Tuesdays. And Wednesdays, Thursdays, Fridays …
*Seminole County — where the Metzers live — has a Web site dedicated to helping families in transition: Seminole Homeless Kids. You can get information about helping there.
Also, PARADE magazine put together a great list of charities and suggestions on how to help families in need this holiday season.