Instead of this insanity, why not shop in local, independent stores in your own community and keep the money circulating in your own neighborhood?

by John Colgan-Davis

Thanksgiving is now past, but I have to say that it is probably my favorite holiday. It is not about gifts, which is good for me, and it is not about a given religious tradition; everyone has a place in it.

Every religious and spiritual tradition has within it a time to give thanks, and that is truly universal. So for me Thanksgiving was great because it is about getting together with friends and family, sharing a meal and saying the simple two word phrase, “Thank you.”

Those two simple words are powerful if we really think about them and let them reach us. They mean, in a very simple yet real way, that I am not solely responsible for the things that have shaped my life and for the things that I have and can do.  I am not the center of the universe. There were other forces at work as well, and this is a time I can acknowledge them.

We Americans are generally willing to accept that truth about things/possessions: “Thank you for that gift” or “Thank you for that meal.” But our need to say thanks is even more true when it comes to our relationships with other humans.

We in America generally like to think that we are totally our own people; there was a lot of that in the presidential election campaign this year. And while we do have a lot of responsibility for things we do and decisions we make, we are nonetheless interdependent on so many others.

I teach a course in The History of Urban America, and one of the things I am always talking to the students about is “infrastructure” — the processes, equipment and people that make a city work in often invisible ways.

So much of that infrastructure is people — the bus driver, mechanic, cop, street cleaner, teacher, sewer worker, waitress, nurse, physician’s assistant, meat cutter, farmer, etc. And we interact with this infrastructure incredibly often.

And then there are our family members, neighbors, teammates and bandmates; we are anything but solitary creatures winding our lone way against the darkness. Even if you do not believe it takes a village to raise a child, you cannot deny that it takes a village to make it possible for a child to do just about anything he winds up doing in this world.

And gratitude is a way we can acknowledge that. We can look at our invisible debts to countless others and be grateful for them and for what they do. We can even say “Thank you” whenever we encounter them. It can become a daily part of our approach to the world.

So Thanksgiving is a holiday that can have life beyond the day it is celebrated. If we take gratitude with us, if we travel with it as a companion through our days, we can live pretty much in a permanent state of Thanksgiving.

Noticing,  being aware of and saying, “Thank you” to the people we come across and who make little bits of or lives possible and pleasant is an easy way to bring a little “nice” into the world. And it helps us all feel and do better. So do have a happy, safe and gratitude-filled day every day of the year.

BLACK FRIDAY AND 3/50

I am a big fan of the 3/50 Project, which encourages people to try to spend at least $50 a month at  three local independent retailers you would miss if they were not there.

The theory and math are simple and small. Independent businesses keep communities thriving; $100 spent with a independent local retailer results in $68 coming back to the community, whereas $100 spent with a national chain store results in only $43 coming back.

We have all been bombarded with endless commercials and ads from national chains advertising Black Friday sales and afterwards. In the midst of all that, it is easy to forget about the businesses that are really at the heart of our local economies.

So I urge you to go to shop small, shop local and help our communities at the same time.

John Colgan-Davis is a long-time Mt. Airy resident and harmonica player for the area’s best rock/blues band, the Dukes of Destiny.