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Opinion: Don’t take Christmas for granted

Consumerism and busy schedules can make us lose sight of what really matters
Whistler's annual Christmas light display is a favourite of visitors and locals alike.

Despite holding an American passport, I grew up in Canada for most of my life and (mercifully) have not experienced Black Friday south of the border. I love great deals as much as the next guy, but I’m simply unwilling to line up at 4 a.m. and fistfight other men to score the latest iPhone, gaming console, or landscaping implement.

At times, I’ve felt like The Onion’s satirical 2012 article about 42 million people dying on “the bloodiest Black Friday shopping event in history” is only a moderate exaggeration of what my fellow United States citizens do every Friday after Thanksgiving.

And isn’t that timing ironic? Days after driving or flying across the country to gather with loved ones and express gratitude for what they have, many Americans freak out about buying things on the one weekend when their bank accounts go a lot further than normal. All the peace and contentment we should strive for during Thanksgiving is gone, just like that. 

I’m not writing this to take potshots at Americans. Here in Canada, we are equally guilty of bowing to the golden calf of consumerism—we just have an extra opportunity to do so over the course of Boxing Week. 

But I’m also not writing this to decry the dark side of capitalism and consumerism. That horse was beaten to death long ago.

Instead—and at the risk of sounding incredibly cliché—I’m exhorting all of us to think about what truly matters this Christmas: the people we hold dear. Money comes and goes, and fancy products inevitably lose their luster, but humans are social beings tied together by relationships more than anything else. 

In April, former Pique features editor Brandon Barrett wrote a column that resonated with me. In it, he asked a poignant question: “if I make it home, say, once a year, how many more times will I get to see my mom and dad? Ten? Fifteen? Maybe 20, if I’m lucky?”

I ponder that question frequently. Unlike Brandon, I only live one province over from my mom and dad, who have the means and desire to visit me every so often. Combined with my biannual trips home for summer and Christmas, that means I get to see my family at least four or five times a year—a blessing many don’t have. 

Still, my parents aren’t spring chickens anymore. They’re in good health, but that could change at any moment. A friend of mine recently lost her father to illness, and I can only imagine her pain. I wish I could do more to help.

That’s not all. While I stood at the base of the Whistler Mountain Bike Park’s Boneyard in July, waiting for Emil Johansson and company to drop in for Red Bull Joyride, my pal called. He’d just gotten word that a plane carrying six men had gone down in the Rockies. I used to go to church in Calgary with five of them. 

We eventually learned there were no survivors. All the deceased left behind wives or significant others. Four left behind
infant children. 

Then, in August, after two weeks of volunteering at a Bible camp called Camp Evergreen (which is dear to my heart), our executive director told us a staff member from two years ago had died. She was a lovely young woman, and I enjoyed talking to her in the time we worked together. Her family didn’t reveal what happened. I’ll never know. 

What do you even do? 

You could pray, or you could selfishly be glad it wasn’t someone you were close with. You could donate to a GoFundMe for the deceased’s family, hoping your small contribution can play an even smaller role in alleviating their grief. You could also feel fear, because what if next time it is someone you love? 

Honestly, I’ve done all four.

It’s easy to take Christmas for granted—to get carried away in the bustle of family plans and deal-hunting. But I would strongly recommend against doing so from here on out. 

We all have different situations. You may not be tight with your family. You may not have treasured friends at hand. If so, I hope you can find another avenue of community. Ask that acquaintance out for coffee. Tell your friendly coworker you appreciate them. Do something this Christmas with someone else. 

Above all: identify the people who love you. Love them back, while you still can.