Every morning, rain or shine, I see them on my train ride in to work–the line of worshippers. On camp chairs or concrete, covered with plastic if it’s coming down as it often does here in Portland, entire families and groups of teenagers. They’re waiting to be admitted into the giant glass cube that is their temple–the Apple store, with its cheerful priests, ready to dispense technological blessings. The people cluster on the steps in front of the store like lepers hoping for a cure….and I suppose you might as well be a leper if you don’t own a smart phone.

The store opened months ago, so it’s not exactly a novelty anymore, but the faithful continue to show up daily. And this week, the disciples of other churches of consumerism are already lining up and camping outside their doors, as the holiday miracle of Black Friday discounts gets ever closer.

They really do remind me of cult followers awaiting a Second Coming, like Jehovah’s Witnesses or those unfortunate people who listened to what Harold Camping had to say about the end of the world. But the Messiah never arrived in clouds of glory, and you will never get the happiness and fulfillment you’re looking for from that TV you’re wrestling away from the other customers at the Wal-Mart sale.

In fact, you will probably only find that fulfillment if you *stop* shopping…and eating..for a moment…and reflect. There are so many reasons to have a moment of silence this Thanksgiving, from Ferguson–to the insanity that Black Friday has become–to just your own peace of mind. So I will do my best to find that moment today. Have a wonderful holiday, everybody.

It sounds like we have not been very patriotic this holiday weekend.  I wasn’t either.  I did not participate in a stampede race for a discounted pair of socks.  I did not battle other customers to the death for a flat screen TV I don’t really need.  We spent our time being grateful for the things we already have, not wanting new things.  And we weren’t alone–economists are reporting that shopping was down this Black Friday.  Unfortunately, gratitude does nothing for the success of our country, only consumption does.

I’m sure the ravenous spending gods are displeased with us, but we’ll have a chance to make it up to Them this Christmas.  I know I will be doing penance at malls and gift stores–and I hate shopping with a passion, so it will be genuine penance.  Let’s do a better job this time, patriots.

Really?  Do even the holidays have to turn into a war?  And I don’t mean in a “War On Christmas” sense of the word.

All this week, the airwaves have been filled with advice for the holiday season, and it hasn’t been advice on how to make the season more charitable or more caring.  “How to browbeat your conservative relative at the holiday dinner.”  “How to annoy the liberals in your family.”

Seriously?  I say this as someone who’s got very strong opinions–I don’t get it.  It’s the holidays.  This is the time to enjoy the company of your family and excessive amounts of food.  Are we really not able to lay down our respective ideologies for a few hours in order to do that?  So there are going to be people at your table who have different political and religious views from you–so what?  We can agree to disagree.  Not everything in life has to be part of some great battle, and if you believe it is, then I feel sad for you.  It means you’ve got issues, and your need to inject drama into every situation probably comes from a psychological source that goes way deeper than politics. 

And even if you believe that the holiday dinner is just another skirmish in the eternal war between good and evil–with all the relatives who disagree with you representing “evil”, naturally!–it is still an age-old military tradition to have a Christmas ceasefire.  I, for one, intend to lay down my weapons while at the family feast, and I wish all of us luck with doing the same.

A friend of mine once expressed surprise that we celebrate Thanksgiving, since we didn’t grow up in America.  (She was pleasantly surprised.)  Not only do we celebrate it, it’s a very big holiday for us, and the perfect immigrant holiday.  On our first Thanksgiving in the States, we were grateful just to have survived, considering how we arrived in this country with around $200 in our pockets and all that.

Well, times are hard, and we’re still grateful.  Yes, we’re part of the endangered middle class, battling every day not to go extinct, but we’re employed and we’re hanging in there.  We haven’t lost our home, unlike so many of our fellow Americans.  We could afford to have a home because we purchased it together as a family–family is a blessing, too.  Love is difficult, but I love and am loved in return.  Food prices have gone up, but our table will be full again this year and we will be able to indulge in the gluttony which is such an essential part of the holidays here.  Winter weather has arrived, but it’s an Oregon winter, which means the temperatures dip a bit below freezing and everyone freaks out about it.  Obama’s presidency hasn’t been perfect, but after seeing George W. Bush on Jay Leno’s show, I’m grateful for Obama, too.  George, please stick to painting!

My family and I have lived in much darker times than this, and we made it.  And even in Communist Poland, there were things to be thankful for, like being able to get bread at the store, or not going to prison.  I’m not sure that I’m a glass half full person, but I’m at least a glass half-and-half person.  So thank you, life, for our problems not being a lot worse.  And a Happy Thanksgiving to all.