Shop Till You Drop
1998: Christmas Remembered
|From the Associated Press, November 30:
Woman Is Trampled By Frenzied Shoppers
ORANGE CITY, Fla. - A mob of shoppers rushing for a sale on DVD players trampled the first woman in line and knocked her unconscious at a Wal-Mart Supercenter.
Patricia VanLester had her eye on a $29 DVD player, but when the siren blared at 6 a.m. Friday announcing the start to the post-Thanksgiving sale, the 41-year-old was knocked to the ground by the frenzy of shoppers behind her.
"She got pushed down, and they walked over her like a herd of elephants," said VanLester's sister, Linda Ellzey. "I told them, 'Stop stepping on my sister! She's on the
Ellzey said some shoppers tried to help VanLester, and one employee helped Ellzey reach her sister, but most people just continued their rush for deals.
"All they cared about was a stupid DVD player," she said Saturday.
Paramedics called to the store found VanLester unconscious on top of a DVD player, surrounded by shoppers seemingly oblivious to her, said Mark O'Keefe, a spokesman for EVAC Ambulance.
She was flown to Halifax Medical Center in Daytona Beach, where doctors told the family VanLester had a seizure after she was knocked down and would likely remain hospitalized through the weekend, Ellzey said.
"She's all black and blue," Ellzey said. "Patty doesn't remember anything. She still can't believe it all happened."
Ellzey said Wal-Mart officials called later Friday to ask about her sister, and the store apologized and offered to put a DVD player on hold for her.
Wal-Mart Stores spokeswoman Karen Burk said she had never heard of a such a melee during a sale.
"We are very disappointed this happened," Burk said.
Okay, I can see several possible reactions to this story.
1. Poor woman, I hope she isn't seriously injured. (Give yourself points if this is how you feel. Compassion is a Good Thing any time of the year.)
2. Let the buyer beware. The store set it up for this to happen - they probably advertised the special prominently and made a big deal out of opening at 6 A.M. She should have known the risks. Anyway, she got her DVD player. (Boo on you, Mr. Scrooge, if this is how you feel.)
3. (This is the reason for the essay.) Wal-Mart had $29 DVD players and I missed it????
Consumer culture - you can't get away from it. This is nothing new. I have heard complaints for years that the "true spirit of Christmas" is being overshadowed by the appetite for more and more goodies. Of course it is! The American way is to advertise, advertise, advertise. Scream louder than the guy next door so you can sell your products. Never mind if they have nothing at all to do with a celebration of the birth of hope and love in a dark, wintry age. Make the products cuter and more irresistible than last year.
Instead of bringing shut-ins a home cooked meal and choral entertainment, let's buy more Hokey Pokey Elmos.
In fairness I should say that some people are naturals for celebrating. They know the right gift for everyone on their list. Often they make them by hand. They love planning and holding elaborate parties, and remain in a positive mood during and after the entire process. How fortunate the family which is blessed with such a superstar!
Do you actually know anyone who fits that description? Me neither. Most of us suffer from varying degrees of holiday phobia.
When we feel such intense pressure to find the right gift that it prevents us from feeling the celebration of joy, we have crossed the line. It's time to re-evaluate our priorities.
Give gifts that don't destroy your budget for months into next year. It's not how much you spend. It's the love you put into your gifts. When possible, give of your time instead of your money. Volunteer at a community food bank, and bring a load of canned goods with you. Contact a nursing home. Find out which residents don't have families who will spend time with them. Find out their needs: sweaters, slippers, books. Visit as a small group and be the "family" for those wonderful folks. Relax - they won't hurt you! Don't be in a hurry to leave. Clock out an afternoon. Learn a little about your new friends. You will be surprised at how blessed you will feel when the visit is done.
Let your loved ones know that they are loved. If you aren't seeing Grandma in person, write a real Christmas card message, not just "I hope you have a wonderful holiday." She will have a wonderful holiday if she knows you care enough to spend time pouring out your heart in a nice long note.
As I write these words, I can't help thinking of the many things I have left unsaid to my loved ones over the years. I imagine many of you are the same way. What would you like to tell your parents - your grown children - your best friends? What is keeping you from telling them?
There is a movie which is the quintessential example of a life turned inward. It's last year's About Schmidt, with Jack Nicholson. Although not a Christmas movie, it conveys the consequences of self-absorption, of being unable to turn our focus on those who love us.
Warren Schmidt lived with his wife Helen for over forty years and never knew her - as he learns too late. He has been physically and emotionally absent from his daughter's life. Now she is about to marry. Schmidt thinks this is a terrible mistake: the boyfriend, a mullet-haired waterbed salesman, clearly isn't "good enough" for his little girl. Schmidt is clueless to the fact that Jeannie and Randall are very much in love, and can communicate their feelings openly. They may not have Schmidt's wealth or community status, but they have each other, and are experiencing a joy Schmidt cannot grasp.
The only person Schmidt can trust with his innermost feelings is someone who has never seen him, and never will. Ndugu is a six year old orphan in Tanzania. Schmidt saw a television ad and agreed to sponsor him for $22 a month. Along with the checks, he sends letters with his most personal thoughts about himself and his family. Finally he receives a handwritten reply from a missionary in Ndugu's village, and the knowledge that he has directly helped this boy causes him to weep - with joy for Ndugu but with grief for what he has lost. At the end of his life, Schmidt has learned that to live is to give. It would have been so much sweeter if he had learned this decades ago.
Perhaps we should take that money we were going to spend on all those DVD players and use it for food and clothing for Ndugu and his friends - or for the nursing home folks. That might be more in keeping with that "true spirit of Christmas" that we lost along the way.
Peace, contentment, joy and love to each of you.