When I turned on my computer today, I had 8 emails from vendors announcing special low prices — Black Friday deals — available all week. I waded through the Black Friday junk mail, tapping away at my delete button, to find the one email I sought: the message from my neighbor with the menu, schedule and guest list for Thursday’s Thanksgiving gathering.
Now, revisionist history aside, Thanksgiving is a great holiday. It is two full days during which most people in the U.S. are liberated from work and school. It comes at a time when the days are getting shorter, trees have lost their leaves, and we’re pulling the sweaters out from the back of our overstuffed closets. In the midst of our hectic year-end bustle, we get to spend two days pausing, recharging, looking into the faces of loved ones rather than into our computer screens.
And, of course, remembering those who can’t be with us.
There’s one mother I especially think of on Black Friday: Marie Tellismond. In 2008, on Black Friday, Marie lost her 34-year-old son, Jdimytai Damour.
Jdimytai — known as Jimmy to his friends — had taken a temporary job for the holidays at a Walmart near his home on Long Island, NY. When the store opened at 5:00 in the morning, the crowds of shoppers — many of who had been waiting in the cold for hours to score good deals — stormed the doors and trampled Jdimytai as he struggled to protect a pregnant woman from the stampede.
Jdimytai was a college student and his mother said he hoped to be a teacher one day. He liked watching football and eating his mother’s cooking. In an interview after the tragedy, she dabbed her eyes and said: “I don’t have anybody else.”
Now, I’ve never met Marie Tellismond, but as a fellow mother, I am pretty sure she would give anything to have a day with her son again. Losing someone we love makes us get our priorities straight really, really fast.
Most of us have a choice this Friday that Marie Tellismond no longer has. We have a choice to stay put with loved ones, to play board games and eat leftovers and maybe even watch a football game together. Or we can chose to leave the warmth of our beds before dawn to sit in our cars in a parking lot at some mall searching for low prices on products which we don’t really need and often don’t even want, but getting them is all part of the Black Friday Frenzy.
Let’s opt out of the frenzy this year, and instead, do something that honors Jdimytai and his fellow Walmart workers.
On Black Friday, let’s join the thousands of courageous Walmart workers across the country standing up and speaking out for better working conditions.
You likely know the story: Walmart employees earn low wages, receive hardly any benefits, and have little to no voice in their stores. When they’ve attempted to organize a union in the past to advocate for a fairer workplace, they’ve faced intimidation and layoffs.
This year, Walmart is even making some employees leave their Thanksgiving family gatherings to report to work so it can get the Black Friday shopping mayhem started early!
This Friday, it is not just workers but the broader community that is joining together to say “enough!” Enough to the frenzied mindless consumption that is undermining our planet and our communities. And enough to denying workers the basic rights, payment and respect that a civilized society requires.
Or, if you can’t make it in person, you can Sponsor a Striker and her family by buying a gift card for food to offset the wages she’ll likely lose from striking.
If we’re going to figure out how to build an economy and society that is healthy for people and the planet, this Friday is a good place to start.
Let’s opt out of the Black Friday madness. Instead, let’s choose family. Let’s chose solidarity. Let’s chose a better world for all.