I went to the mall this evening with my sister and found it depressing.
She needed a gift for her boyfriend and her boyfriend's dad. She invited me along and so I came for the ride and the company. I like malls generally. I can be invisible and just watch. I like to look at all the people: black, brown, red, white, asian, somali, europian, hispanic, punk, abercrombie, rich, poor, lonely, harried, lovebirds and lovelorn. It's a fascinating study in People, and can entertain me for an entire afternoon.
Today it depressed me.
As I looked at the faces in the hordes streaming past me, I saw very little (if any) happiness. Some just looked indifferent; maybe they WERE happy, just distracted. A few looked satisfied, some looked bored (mostly the men seated at benches wishing they were home), but most looked hunted. They had this miserable, dug-in look, like the biggest thought in their head was 'please let me survive christmas'. And suddenly I didn't want to be in the mall anymore.
If I could just say something that is preached from pulpits every year that didn't sink in until tonight---the uber-commercialization of Christmas has gutted it of meaning, stripped it of joy. While giving can be fun, it is often done out of obligation and has become so complicated and loaded with meaning. We buy them a gift because they bought us one. We give gifts to people who don't need anything. We give gifts to people who don't want anything. We buy cheap, they give expensive, we feel guilty. Four weeks from now, all that will remain are the cookies and sweets that will have settled around our midsections, and a buttload of bills. And broken stuff. Did you know that the suicide rates increase after January first?
It just seems like Jesus' birthday shouldn't be the hallmark for so many new gray hairs and family strains.
Or maybe I'm just tired.