I’m not a last minute shopper. Every year I try to get my Christmas shopping done by Thanksgiving, so I can relax and enjoy the simple things at Christmas time…friends, family, music, baking, and the list goes on. I generally succeed at being ready far in advance.

It’s been a few years since I’ve hit the mall in the week leading up to Christmas, but I headed there on Saturday. I had a $10 off¬†JCPenney coupon I wanted to use. JCPenney was busy, but people were friendly. I found a great sweater, paid for it (only $4.99 after the coupon!), and headed to my car.

I needed a few drugstore items, so I figured I’d take the shortcut through the mall parking lot to Target. It’s usually a shortcut, anyway. Traffic was backed up like it was rush hour in Los Angeles. By the time I realized how bad it was, I was stuck in the middle, and there was no turning back. It took me, and I’m not exaggerating here, an HOUR to get out of the mall parking lot.

By that time, I just wanted to get home, so I skipped Target and the UPS store and headed straight home. But while I was sitting in my car, singing The Revelation Song at the top of my lungs (yes, as a matter of fact, I did get some strange looks), I began to think about what Christmas has become. And it made me sad.

People are Rushed

I spent an hour and a half at the mall to buy one thing. Though annoying, it was OK for me. I didn’t have any other plans, and my Christmas preparations are pretty much done.

But my guess is that most people who were at the mall on Saturday weren’t out for a leisurely afternoon. They were scrambling to buy last minute Christmas gifts. Amidst the crowds and stress, I’ll venture that they weren’t putting a ton of thought into what they were buying. They were just trying to get DONE. Furthermore, because the crowds and traffic were so bad, shopping that would normally take an hour was taking 3 times that long, not helping the holiday stress.

People are Rude

My experience in JCPenney was actually pretty good. Both the customers and the employees were very friendly. But once I got into the parking lot…watch out!

The drivers were ruthless. At one point I had to make a left turn across bumper to bumper traffic going in both directions. The car going the opposite way of my destination stopped for me, but the lady in the car in the lane I needed to get to gave me one nasty look and hit the gas. Fortunately I was able to squeeze in behind her.

Then I proceeded to watch her be rude to many other drivers, as she tried to make a left turn…and nobody would let her in. She definitely wasn’t the only rude driver in the parking lot Saturday. Even the guy in front of me, whom I personally let in the traffic lane, was a jerk when it came to letting other poor drivers try to get into the slow moving lane. So much for paying it forward.

People Miss the Meaning of Christmas

Whether you believe in Christmas as a celebration of Christ’s birth, as I do, or whether you celebrate it as a secular holiday, I think most people agree that Christmas is about giving. Christ gave his life. Santa is based on St. Nicholas, who was said to have given many secret gifts to those around him.

Christmas isn’t a time to “get through.” It’s not a time to be rude to others, so you can get your parking spot, space in the checkout line, or trinket first. It’s not a time to buy loads of meaningless junk, just so you can say you gave a gift.

It’s a time to reflect on all you have…relationships, health, salvation. It’s a time to show kindness to our friends and neighbors. It’s a time to give to those who are less fortunate.

What has come over us as a country? Even during Christmas it seems that things are more important than people. Instead of looking out for our fellow man, we look out for number one. Instead of stopping to appreciate all that we have, we long for all that we don’t.

Please stop. Take a breath. For this week slow down and take time to appreciate all that you have.

Photo by Christiano Betta.