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asantasoupkitchenSanta Claus arrived with a flourish yesterday at the culmination of the Thanksgiving Day parade in NY City. He was quite animated, bouncing and waving in all directions to announce that the run-up to Christmas had begun. Although Hallmark movies had been filling the airwaves with Christmas carols since sometime in October, now it’s official and very serious. The internet is awash with advertisements for all kinds of amazing discounts on products and services. I heard on the national news last night that even airline ticket prices are slashed “for a limited time.” What began as a day-long opportunity for deep price reductions on the day after Thanksgiving has been running for a week already, but is still named, ironically, Black Friday.

I recognize the value of shopping for gifts when prices are reduced but the frenzy that has been happening already in cities and towns across our country, especially last night and in the early hours of this morning, is a growing concern in a country of great wealth where at least 1 in 7 people (1 in 5 children) lack proper access to food during any given year. (Feeding America) Clay Dunn, chief communications officer at the nonprofit No Kid Hungry reminds us that often the issue for poor families is making difficult choices like whether to buy food or pay the electric bill.

There are certainly many organizations (including the two mentioned above) that strive to make us aware of the needs and give us the opportunity to be part of the solution to this and other issues of poverty in our country. I simply call our attention to the image of extreme materialism – leading sometimes to violence engendered by a crowd mentality – that manifests on this day, all in service to the “season of gift-giving.”

My prayer for all of us today is one of mindfulness and hope for a return to balance. With that intention, I plan to stay home today and consider my giving and getting that will hopefully lead to a simple, peaceful season of Advent that culminates in a meaningful celebration of Christmas.