Late Thursday evening after having filled our bellies with the great feast that is Thanksgiving, we watched the evening news on television. It seemed most of the anchors were reporting on the subject of shopping - Black Friday shopping, particularly. Scenes of consumers camping in front of stores toting tables, tents, sleeping bags and coffee appeared on every channel. Some shops were scheduled to open as early as four o'clock in the morning, and the long lines wrapping around buildings confirmed business would be good that early.
The scenes seemed terribly sad. Images of people holding all-night vigil for......things. Complaining of the cold and the absence of comfort, but still willing to wait and suffer for a great deal, some wondered whether it was really worth it. Perhaps many of them truly are poor - in need of a good price to provide for a family need. Perhaps many are already in the practice of keeping vigil all night in front of the Blessed Sacrament, making this a small sacrifice. I would like to think so.
The following morning, Black Friday itself, we visited the sick bed of a venerable old woman who has lived her life in great love....not of things....but of her Father in Heaven, Our Lady, her Mother, and virtues that will transcend this life and accompany her into the next when the time comes for her to go. She lay there beautifully, peacefully and alert but without complaint even while suffering tremendous pain - a striking contrast to shoppers begrudging the cold and the lack of sleep on television the night before. I find it compelling that the suffering for the one, though received, is accepted gracefully; while for the others, though self-imposed, is resented.
God always seems to choose the perfect time to teach me something. Often He enlightens by way of reminder - awakening me to a truth He's taught again and again....and again. This Thanksgiving weekend, only ten days before the season of Advent, I felt privileged to behold His tender instruction in the form of such sharp contrast, two opposing images working together to remind me: It's not about this life.
I've been keeping these images firmly in mind since last week. I know they will pass soon - much too soon, settling themselves in the back of my memory. For now I'm grateful to have them at the forefront and hope they persist, at least long enough that at the end of Advent I may be just a little more like the beautiful woman I visited, who still in her final hours keeps vigil......for the Infant to be born on Christmas day.
[Please be assured that I don't mean to be critical of any particular persons who may have taken advantage of the sales last Friday. I am all in favor of buying things on sale and using coupons when available. It was more the news coverage of the evening, which generally portrayed begrudged shoppers in long lines for luxury items.]