Yes, I’m still not over that! Now before I begin, let me just say that I will not criticize those who shop – how else are we (that are able to) supposed to get our bare necessities? However, I write to reflect upon my encounters with the world of consumerism that seems to ignore those who do not have the resources to shop excessively, let alone shop for the bare necessities.
So let’s be real. We’ve all seen how every year Black Friday shopping comes earlier and earlier. One company even claimed that opening its doors on Thanksgiving is what the consumers wanted. So I ask you: What do you want? I mean what do you really want? When we think about this question, we should be considering our desires and our needs. Yes, I know I know. People bring this up every year around this time. But all too often people seem to forget the privileges they have. That’s why I’m here to remind you! This may come as a shock to some, but – yes – shopping for gifts is a privilege. When my siblings and I were in our teens, instead of buying gifts for us my parents decided to give us a set amount of money to buy whatever we wanted for Christmas. By doing so, we all contributed to consumerism: We all thought it was good to spend on goods and services that we wanted, not realizing how some people around the world do not have this option. As I got older and faced the question what do you want for Christmas, it became difficult for me to answer because what I truly desired could not be found in any shopping malls. I wanted a feeling of love, joy, and togetherness among my family. I realize now that I wanted to spend less and give more.
Seemingly contrary to my view of the importance of feeling, in my microeconomics class we learned the importance of signaling. Gifts signal to loved ones how much we care about them. However, spending less time shopping and more time in each other’s company should also signal to our loved ones how much we care. In my family, we always say it’s the thought that counts. In other words, this is just like saying I don’t like the gift but I appreciate you thinking of me. This goes to say that gifts shouldn’t always signal how much we care. We need to place less value on the material and more value on the feeling – the true feeling one gets when decorating, baking, talking, etc. with those we care about. After all, the holiday spirit is a feeling unable to be bought.
Spending less and giving more takes me back to the beginning of the semester when I attended a retreat sponsored by Xavier’s Center for Faith & Justice in which we focused on the theme radical hospitality. This theme has stayed with me throughout this semester. As I put the notion of consumerism into perspective, I realize that by spending less and giving more we all can engage in radical hospitality. For me, radical means reform or social change and hospitality means friendly welcoming. Radical hospitality seems like an oxymoron in our society; it’s simple yet difficult. It’s asking how can we change society by being more welcoming. In order to engage in radical hospitality, we must be willing to reject consumerism and place ourselves on the same level as those who do not share in our “consumer joy.” In this way, we can show hospitality to those who are not privileged; and in a radical way, by spending less on material and giving more of our time we can evoke a change in the way society values consumption.
I can’t help but think of how people like Dorothy Day made radical hospitality look so easy. In this day and age, it ain’t easy! Tell me: How can I resist buying those cute fashionable booties from DSW that are on sale for 50% off?! Indeed fashionable and discounted is a great way to shop! But it’s kind of pitiful how society has us yearning for those discounts. Now imagine a holiday season in which there were no discounts, but love or joy or community was sold for free. I’m sad to say that I don’t believe they would even sell out. Thankfully, they are in unlimited supply! Radical hospitality is not easy, but by trying we are more likely to succeed. Whenever you feel yourself giving in to consumerism or material culture, look around and ask yourself: how much vanity do you see? Vanity is a product of consumerism and material culture. Ask yourself: How much do you desire that item? The misuse of money and desire can lead to emptiness. These questions can help form the basis for engaging in radical hospitality.
John 3:16 tells us that For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him shall not perish but have everlasting life. It’s amazing how much one can give when one loves! We all have something of ourselves to give. Instead of giving in to consumerism, I pledge to give more of myself to the Lord, give more of myself to my loved ones, and give more of myself to those who are not at the table. I pledge to spend less and give more – that is how I will be applying radical hospitality this holiday season. I ask that you join me in taking the pledge. I know it’s difficult, but at least give it a try. Trust me – it’ll be well worth it!
Juwanna is a Junior at Xavier University, majoring in Political Science and Gender & Diversity Studies. She enjoys reading and good cup of tea. This is her first time contributing to a blog, and she hopes to contribute more in the future!