Something stirred in my memory as I watched the TV news two weeks ago. I had seen a similar event nearly fifty years earlier among the Canela people of Brazil, but with a vastly different outcome.
The TV news showed crowds of bargain hunting shoppers bursting into stores when the doors opened on Black Friday, to begin a shopping frenzy—greedily grasping and grabbing, and at times wresting and wrenching items out of the hands of other shoppers. Sometimes even wrestling and punching other shoppers.
That’s when I remembered one of the times we returned to the Canela after having been away for several months. A number of small boys had whacked down the weeds around our house and as a gesture of appreciation, I gave each of them a handful of paper wrapped candy—a highly prized and rare treat for them.
As all the weed whackers were receiving their candy, more kids came running up. Since I had some candy left over, I gave a yell and threw the last few dozen candies high in the air to fly towards the arriving group of kids. Instant pandemonium—kids greedily grabbed, grasped, wrested, wrenched, and at times almost wrestled other kids to get a candy.
It was over in an instant, but the damage was done. Several village elders who had been sitting on a bench at our house watching, got up and walked toward me, shaking their heads. They came up to me, their faces serious,
“No, no. Don’t throw candies at the kids as if you were throwing scraps at a flock of chickens. They are people, Canela people. You should have told them to line up, and then give each one a candy so there is no disorderly conduct like this.”
They went on to scold me for provoking their grandkids into shameful, disrespectful behaviour. “What if a Brazilian from the city had seen this? They would have thought they were among uncivilized savages. Please don’t do this again.”
That was the early-years-among-the-Canela memory that floated into my mind as I watched the news. But what a different reaction! Instead of elders rebuking this behaviour, North American merchants were delighted, as were the TV media that gleefully showed the mayhem, with no thought of who else in the world might see this shameful, disrespectful behaviour.
If Canelas were to see this North American Black Friday madness on television, they would pity Jo and me for having to live among such uncivilized savages.
They might also ask themselves, “Why do countries that have had the Bible in their own language for many generations, still have people that act worse than we did before we even had a Bible in our language?
I need to ask myself some questions too.
- How much am I being influenced by my materialistic, things-oriented culture?
- Am I showing any signs of turning into a greedy, grasping, grabbing type of shopper, constantly searching for the best deal?
- Am I becoming more dissatisfied with the stuff I have, wanting something more, something better, something nicer?
- Would the best antidote for this poison be to deliberately give things away, and simplify our lives instead of accumulating more stuff?
Probably Yes to all these questions.