Holiday shopping time is here. I would like to share a short allegory about Black Friday which will be here soon.It is not intended to criticize anyone who shops during this hectic time. I have enjoyed doing so myself. It is just a reminder to keep things in perspective. I hope you enjoy it.
By Barbara Latta
The line was all the way down the sidewalk, around the corner of the building and growing steadily as time passed. People looked at their watches while they drank their lattes, murmuring about the wait. Some shuffled their feet trying to keep warm. Need raised up from the cold ground where he had been sleeping and drew the thin blanket around his shoulders as he watched the spectacle across the parking lot. A shiver ran through him as the icy fingers from the earth grabbed his skin.
“Hey, come on, it’s 4 a.m. already, why don’t they open the doors?” Impatience shouted.
“Yeah, what are they waiting on?” Grumbler said.
About that time a clerk in a red vest appeared on the opposite side of the glass doors. The crowed peered through like hungry piranha waiting on prey. Black Friday was about to begin. The lock clicked and before the clerk could open the door, the mob did it for him, pushing and shoving each other out of the way.
Need walked to the sidewalk which had miraculously cleared. He reached down and picked up a discarded cup of coffee. It was still warm. He wrapped his cold hands around the cup savoring the heat for just a moment before he took a long swig. His stomach growled, but this would have to do unless he could sneak some free samples from the bakery inside the store.
He went inside to the mayhem of the dollar. The zoo was calmer at feeding time than this frenzy. Need worked his way through the maze of bodies and walked into the beginning of a battle.
“That’s mine, I saw it first,” Covetous said. She pulled a purse off the shelf before another could reach for it. Greed grabbed to pull it back, missed, and her elbow flew backward hitting Need in the eye.
“Ouch,” he cried, covering his wounded eye with his hand.
“Get out of the way, old man.”
He was shoved back as they continued their fight over the designer bag.
The aisles were already strewn with merchandise that had been perused and discarded for better choices. Need had to step carefully along the floor to prevent crushing toys and books. The smell from the bakery was beckoning to his stomach. He hoped he could get there before all the free samples were taken.
“Attention Shoppers. We have five 50-inch TV’s at a special price of just $200 each,” a voice on the intercom announced. He looked up just as a flood of bodies ran toward him with no intention of going around. Need moved away, but not fast enough. He was trampled as if he were part of the floor. He picked himself up and examined every body part to see what might be injured.
He tried to find a way out of the mess he was in but was surrounded by a sea of humanity with only one thing on their minds. He moved against the flow only to be pushed back two steps for every one he took. He felt the buttons on his shirt pop as someone beside him pulled on it.
“Ewww,” Mocker said, “why don’t you go to the deodorant aisle fellow?” He wiped his hands on another’s arm.
“Hey, don’t wipe his dirt off on me,” Haughty said as he flicked the offense off his sleeve.
Need swallowed the lump in his throat and said nothing. His hunger had driven him into the store hoping for a morsel of free food; otherwise, he wouldn’t be in the middle of this chaos. He escaped the claws of ridicule and continued toward his quest.
“Why did they put the bakery at the back of the store?” He muttered to himself.
He reached the counter just as a new batch of hot donuts had been put on the table. The sugar was still melting down the sides. Need’s mouth watered. He grabbed some napkins from the dispenser and put two donuts in his pocket before he could be spotted. He grabbed another and wolfed it down in two bites. He was so hungry he didn’t taste it, but it helped the ache in his belly for a few moments.
“Hey, you, those are samples not a meal. Leave some for the other shoppers,” Gluttony said from behind the counter. Sugar flakes were falling from her chin as she spoke.
“Oh, it’s you again. Haven’t you been told enough times to stay out of here? You’re just a bum looking for a handout. Now get out of here.” She walked around the glass pastry display case and picked up the platter to keep Need from taking anything else.
Need left the store grateful for the little he had been able to get. He patted his pocket where the pair of donuts lay in wait for lunch. The cold wind assaulted him as he walked into the parking lot. He passed a car where a woman and child were having an argument.
“No, Mommy, I want to go inside, too,” Abandon said.
“No, you will only get in the way. I wouldn’t have brought you if I had anyone to leave you with. Now stay in the car and don’t make any noise to draw attention to yourself. I am going to get that jacket I want no matter what I have to do,” Selfish said. Need watched Selfish lock Abandon in the car and walk away.
With a deep sigh and a shake of his head, Need walked back toward the grassy area where he had slept last night. He sat down on the cardboard box he had used for a bed thankful the wind hadn’t blown it away, and then reached behind a shrub for the blanket he had stashed there when he went into the store. Wrapping the holey garment around his shoulders, he laid down to try to get some more sleep. At least if he could sleep, he wouldn’t know he was hungry.
He was awakened later by small fingers poking him in the shoulder.
Need opened his eyes and looked into a small face with big, blue eyes that were starting to shed tears. He recognized the child who had been left in the car.
“What do you want, kid?”
“I’m lost. I got out of my mother’s car to walk around and now I can’t find it.” Need thought about helping her and then realized how it would look if someone saw him with another person’s child. He couldn’t risk that.
“Well, I can’t help you.”
“I don’t see anyone else out here and you are bigger than I am.” She sniffed.
“Maybe I can help,” a voice from behind them said.
Need and Abandon looked up at the stranger who had approached them.
“My name is Emmanuel.” Need’s hand was grabbed by a stronger, calloused one and deep scars were exposed on the man’s wrists as the two shook hands.
“Your mother’s car is three rows over.” Emmanuel lifted Abandon up so she could see over the tops of the cars.
“Oh yes, I see it now.”
He hugged her tight before putting her back down. Abandon tried to hold on a little longer.
“You’re a nice man,” she said.
Emmanuel smiled at her and cupped her chin. Abandon looked down at the scars on his hands.
“What happened to your hands?”
“I was beaten and put in prison for something I didn’t do.”
Need and Abandon looked at Emmanuel in surprise.
“It’s ok now. Everything has been made right. Today is my birthday. Would both of you like to share this with me?” Emmanuel picked up a bag off the ground that had gone unnoticed until now. Out of it came the most amazing aroma Need had ever smelled.
“Are you having a party?” Abandon asked.
Emmanuel looked around the parking lot. A man was trying to squeeze an oversize TV box into the back of a compact car. Several shoppers were running with carts to unload their purchases so they could go back for more. Greed and Covetous came out of the store with frowns on their faces.
“No, I don’t think anyone would have time to come. How about the two of you? Could I share my birthday meal with you?”
Need and Abandon both nodded. Emmanuel spread a feast before them worthy of a king. They ate until they couldn’t hold anymore. Need was feeling Full and Abandon was feeling Loved.
“Where did you get all this?” Need asked.
“My father is very rich and he provides sumptuously.”
“He sure does. But why did you want to share it with us?” Need said.
“Because you were the ones who accepted it. I invited all those here. But no one would come.”
“Abby, Abby!” A woman’s panicked cry pierced the air.
“You better go back to your mother,” Emmanuel said.
“No, I don’t want to. She will be angry because I left the car.”
“I think you will find her different now.”
Abby started walking back toward the car and met her mother who was running toward the three new friends. Mother knelt down and embraced the child while Need and Emmanuel looked on.
“Oh, Abby, I’m sorry I left you in the car.”
“Did you get your jacket, Mommy?”
“Yes, but when I couldn’t find you I didn’t care if I had it or not. I will never be that Selfish again.”
Emmanuel looked at Mother and nodded in approval. Mother took Abby’s hand and led her back to the car.
Emmanuel pointed across the parking lot and told Need, “Go over to that store. Ask for Generous and tell him I sent you. He will have a job for you.”
As Need walked toward the store for the promised job, he watched Emmanuel moving among the shoppers returning to their vehicles with their Black Friday discounted loot. He saw Greed and Covetous hurrying to other stores, barely able to get into the door with the bulging bags at their sides. Indifference walked past a Salvation Army kettle counting the bills in his hands and then stuffing them back into his pocket. Gluttony waddled out to her car and drove to a nearby drive-thru and ordered the super-size value meal.
Emmanuel approached a man unloading signs from the back of his truck. “Do you need some help?” Need heard him ask.
“Sure,” the man replied as he handed Emmanuel an armful of signs. “I’m putting these up around the parking lot.” Emmanuel smiled at the message it contained.
Need walked over and read one of the signs.
“Do you know the Reason for the Season?” was displayed in green and red letters with a glittery star at the top.
As the last post went into the ground, Need heard Emmanuel say to the sign maker, “Today is my birthday. Would you like to share a meal with me?”
What are your thoughts about how holiday shopping is handled?