Which lines have you been waiting in?

It has been quite some time since my last entry. Blame it on life…actually lets just call it priorities. I’m not doing much modeling at the moment and have started to teach english privately while studying Chinese. It’s fair to say that the business is going MUCH better than the Chinese. My next post will update everyone on life, but this post is about that most wonderful time of the year…

Yes, I’m talking about Black Friday…what, you thought I was referring to the Christmas? Thanksgiving? Or maybe Remembrance Day? Actually, now that I think about it, I guess I am referring to those three days which when combined make up what should be the most reflective time of the year for the average person.

Once a month in October, November, and December, we are given a day or two off of work  so that we may celebrate, give thanks or pay tribute to others. It’s against this back-drop that “Black Friday” stands out like a business suit in a soup kitchen line. To be specific, it’s the fights, lines and obsession with getting a “steal” that I’m talking about, not the shopping itself.

In the following clip listen to how excited people are, and look at how many of them there are?! I mean you would think that they were about to meet Jay-Z and Beyonce or something…but no…they are buying underwear…that they can’t even afford.

So what’s the point of this post? Well, personally I find it hard to watch footage like this, because I just don’t get it. But, my point isn’t to judge. It’s certainly not to say that this is something endemic of a particular nation because as soon as something is “on sale”, “marked down” or “free”, it seems to bring out the worst in people regardless of where they’re from. For an example of this right here in China read this. All I’m hoping is that all my readers reflect a little on their own actions and choices a little.

Here’s the twist though, if you were the woman screaming for joy over the $30 thong you bought for $5, or if you were the guy who drove all the way from Vancouver to Seattle in order to buy an Armani suit that was discounted 50%, that’s fine. Savings matter, especially in today’s economy, and quite simply, who doesn’t appreciate big sales?!

What I’m asking is whether you’ve spent some time in a different line recently. Maybe the one full of people waiting to shake a Veteran’s hand in the pouring rain. If not, why not? Were you one of those people who, when asked, told their buddy they couldn’t afford to contribute $20 to a”Movember” campaign, or couldn’t spare a minute to even talk to the Habitat for Humanity canvasser on the street corner. Were you able to  commit to making a monthly contribution of even $5 a month towards any cause that was near and dear to your heart this past year?

So you see, this post really isn’t about the evils of shopping, and neither is this time of year. It’s a special time of year, a time when we are reminded to give thanks and are given ample opportunity to give back because its safe to say that most of us have more to be thankful for than we realize.

So next year when “Black Friday” rolls around, and you find yourself standing in an epic line, or watching  all the videos, and news stories about the general mayhem, remember to ask yourself which lines you’ve been waiting in all year.

As a footnote I read about “Giving Tuesday” after the fact and I hope it gains a little traction next year. Just one more opportunity to GIVE!

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A Christmas Story

It’s Christmas morning and I’m waiting for my coffee at Starbucks. As I’m standing around I notice a man walking past outside. I’ve noticed him before because he looks a little worse for wear. Shoulder length hair, two crutches, legs that are disfigured, and a strong limp. Though I can’t be sure that he is homeless, it is clear that he doesn’t have it easy. I’ve seen  him shuffling through the streets before, pulling a homemade sled behind him with a few random belongings. It takes him a great deal of time and effort to even walk 10 feet.

On this morning, being Christmas and all, I decided to say hi, and to see if I could offer him food or a little money. I was well aware that offering charity to someone who hasn’t asked for it could be extremely offensive, but on this special day, I thought it was worth the risk.

I went outside, smiled and motioned whether I could buy something to eat or give him some money. I was a little nervous because I didn’t want to offend him, but he simply smiled at me and shook his head and motioned that he didn’t want anything. With that I said “OK Merry Christmas” and waved good-bye, to which he cheerfully said “Ciao, Ciao”.

I have to admit I was a little taken aback by his refusal, but was really moved by how happy and friendly he had been. I told myself that from then on, I’d wave and say hi whenever I saw him, and for the next two weeks that is exactly what I did.

A few days ago while sitting at Starbucks with a friend, the Gentleman came up to our window. I went out to speak with him and we had a very animated conversation considering neither of us had any idea what the other was saying. My friend who was watching from inside said that people passing by were literally stopping to watch us talk, as if it was something remarkable. Eventually, I had to pull myself away because I simply couldn’t understand what he was trying to tell me. He continued to stand in front of the window and I had to ignore him, which felt horrible…but I didn’t know what else to do. He eventually wandered off and I went back to reading.

A while later, after a bathroom break, my friend presented me with two carefully decorated lighters and told me that my new acquaintance had stopped by and wanted me to have them. I was speechless! Did he want money for them? Why had he given them to me? I dont even smoke.

Well, you’re entitled to your own interpretation, but this is what my friend Ramsay who was with me at the time thought. We have a nasty habit of always thinking that we owe others something, or that we are expected to compensate somehow for acts of kindness. In Ramsay’s opinion though, the man didn’t want anything in return. This was his way of saying thank you to ME, for what I had already done for him. We are all humans after all and when we die, we are as equal as the day we were born. Unfortunately over the course  of our life society stratifies us and we inevitably get treated and treat others differently depending on certain circumstances. On a basic level though, we all want the same things which include dignity, respect and compassion.

At the risk of sounding to cliché, sometimes it really doesn’t take much to make someone’s day. This is especially true when we are talking about those people who society has already marginalized, but it applies to us all.. A smile, a nod, a few words or a compliment. I was reminded of this on Christmas, and it’s something I’ll try to be more aware of in 2012.

Club 21

Aside

An Idea taken from the author of The Happiness Equation, John Hallward:

“Club 21” was started by his grandparents. When each grandchild turned 21 they received a letter from their grandparents with a check for $500. The letter said happy birthday – here is $500 but it is not for you! The letter went on to explain that the money had to go to 5 separate charities. They had to choose two charities in the province that they lived, two in the province of Quebec where they grew up and one anywhere else. The grandchild then had to write a letter to the grandparents explaining which charity they gave to and why. Once the task was finished they were welcomed to “Club 21”, and received another $500 check to spend on themselves.

Whether you’re giving $50, $500, or $5000 as a birthday present or for Christmas ,it doesn’t matter. What matters is the lesson you are teaching. Compassion, thoughtfulness and kindness are all values that we can’t start teaching soon enough!