I chuckle, now, about shopping madness in the 1980's. Remembering one particular Christmas with kid's high expectations; siblings too numerous to afford; trying to find the right gift with funds inadequate to make a dream come true. Tradition played its part as well. All of which placed me frazzled and desperate for last minute sales in Stockton at a Penny's Department Store on Christmas Eve. The lines were daunting and dispirited I stood, contemplating why I was in this horrific line, instead of sitting in front of the stove with a bowl of popcorn and a hot toddy enjoying my home and family.
Someone in front of me said, "Let's go to fabric. The line will be short. No one buys fabric this close to Christmas." I hesitated to give up my place in line, but, followed, went upstairs, and there, the line was like all of the others. Tired shoppers struggling with packages, waiting in line with purchases from other departments. The only glimmer of hope was this clerk had an assistant, a bagger, which could conceivably make the wait shorter.
We plodded slowly forward. About seven deep, I heard someone voice my own thoughts. "Why do you have an assistant when none of the other clerks do?"
"Oh, I don't work here," chimed in the bagger. "I'm a customer. I just thought I'd help out and now I can't quit."
It took a second or two for the information to percolate and suddenly my tiredness left. The clerk and bagger were happily and furiously removing tags and loading bags and bantering with the people closest in line.
I proposed a hip-hip-hooray, thrice, and the word spread down the line as everyone gave voice with lifted spirts.
I walked out into the cold night with my parcels, enjoyed the crisp wind on my face, and went home a new person. It ain't about the stuff.
Two years later, our family gave up shopping and agreed to donate to charities instead. We found such enjoyment in each other, I can't believe it took us so long. I know this is anathema when the economy is depending on spending. But none of us would change it.