Jan Johnson
Jan Johnson

WisBits Archive

November 2012

Buy Nothing Day

Friday November 23 (the day after we thank God for what we’ve got) is “Black Friday,” the day sales begin and people shop till they drop for whatever they haven’t got.

But this add-on holiday day could be the ideal dream of an extra 24 hours dropped into your life. A day to:

  • have nothing on your calendar so you’re open to see what God will bring
  • chill out (Sabbath)
  • reflect on the great (or recover from the not-so-great) celebration the previous day
  • hang out with family or friends
  • catch up with yourself
  • do something you’ve wanted to do but had to put off
  • do something useless like looking at old pictures
  • have a space of margin to exhale and breathe
  • ride your bike or hike a trail that’s not close by
  • reread all the things you underlined in the best book you’ve ever read—and then sit and ponder what you read. sit by the fire.

Instead, this day has been hijacked by commercial forces (as Christmas has). So for decades, thousands of people have chosen to opt out of this unofficial “opening day” of the holiday frenzy to celebrate simplicity of life. The British Columbia-based organization, Adbusters, initiated the Friday after Thanksgiving as “Buy Nothing Day,” noting that the average U. S. and Canadian dweller “consumes five times more than a Mexican, 10 times more than a Chinese person, and 30 times more than a person from India. . . Give it a rest."

Such a day could form your soul, just a little bit. Why? Because Buy Nothing Day is a practice of the discipline of simplicity, specifically frugality. Like all disciplines of abstinence, it helps us look at ourselves: What am I like when I don’t get what I automatically want? Can I be content? As we considered in last month’s wisbit, how might I use this day to raise my standard of loving rather than my standard of living? Who needs some love and attention that day? Where might God and I partner? How might I celebrate the deepest longings of my heart?

What am I giving up to participate in Buy Nothing Day? Besides credit card debt, I’m letting go of shopping as a way to fill a void, to entertain myself, to kill time or to acquire something that will impress someone else. What am I gaining? For one day, I’ll live simply, spending time with people instead of spending money on them. Who knows? Maybe it will lead to a more peaceful and selfless sort of holiday season.

If you do this (or do it for part of the day), please do the heart exam (Abundant Simplicity p. 33). Or if you do shop, ask yourself as you are standing in the middle of a store: What drives me to want to buy stuff? Owning more? Looking better? Impressing others? Or am I just bored? Am I willing to “be still and know . . .”?

Buy Nothing Day isn’t just about you. It moves us toward becoming responsible, generous citizens. Capitalism needs morality to survive or it will disintegrate into unchecked greed. Morality involves thinking about how my behavior affects others (love). If I can forego obtaining things I think I have to have today, I’m less likely to be pushy tomorrow. It may retrain me a little bit to stop driving too closely to the person in front of me, grabbing the last turkey on sale that the woman on Social Security was reaching for, or talking loudly on a cell phone in a public place. It will be easier to slow down and care about others.

As you finish reading this wisbit, please ask God: What do you want me to do with November 23, 2012? See what comes to you.

Grace and peace,
Jan Johnson

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