How To Take Back Thanksgiving Even If You Have To Work Retail

By Bob Phibbs

Thanksgiving retail sales employee

The Thanksgiving holiday is being celebrated today with retailers opening early and people leaving their homes to shop instead of sharing their day with loved ones.

That’s why I came up with this graphic - The Thanksgiving I still believe in is about giving, not getting.

Thanksgiving used to be a holiday where several generations of family and friends should be seated around a large dinner table listening as Grandfather says grace, then watching as Dad carves the turkey and Mom brings out the pies. The kids are sitting quietly at a separate table. It is an image captured in a Norman Rockwell painting, but I doubt it is reality for many families today.

Things have changed.

Today, Thanksgiving could just as easily be two guys at an Applebee’s, a single mom and her child eating in their kitchen, or a woman eating alone at a high-end restaurant in Manhattan.

There is no shame that families and holiday traditions have changed in modern times.

And that’s why so many retailers have opted to open on Thanksgiving. That is a new tradition I think is dangerous because it reduces a national day of reflection to yet another sale day.

Maybe they are doing this because they know the cat is out of the bag. They know customers can get Black Friday deals on their smartphones every day.

They know Wal-Mart and the rest began announcing their Black Friday deals in October. They know customers will be able to cherry-pick their shopping list from a variety of retailers.

And that makes those retailers nervous. But does taking away the need for a country’s reflection and gratefulness equal the cost?

Shouldn’t Thanksgiving Day still remain a pause button in the middle of a hectic scramble toward the end of the year?

Retailers, are we so anxious about our holiday profits that we have to change the most meaningful day of the year into one more hectic shopping day?

Are we so sure that is the only way to compete?

What about the need for us to stop long enough to be thankful? As a guy whose childhood was rooted in the tumultuous 60’s, I didn’t learn soon enough to be thankful for what was right in my life, instead of anxious about what was wrong.

I had to consciously choose to learn that. I had to learn to inventory what happenstance, coincidence, luck and perseverance got me to this place in my life.

I had to appreciate what brought me to this day. Now.

It wasn’t easy, and it took time.

That was at a time before my iPhone chirped, clucked and vibrated its way into my every waking hour. Back before I obsessively checked social media, email, and the news.

Back when the mall was closed on Thanksgiving.

Thanksgiving was that one day I would sit around my family’s table and my sister-in-law would ask each of us what we were grateful for. We knew it was coming. It was a tradition. This was always the time when I realized how thankful I was for a multitude of things.

Sure it was easy to say I was thankful for family and friends, but this was also the time I realized I was thankful for the times when I didn’t get my way because those times developed my character.

How about you? What about a time you were turned down for a job? Didn’t that help you find the right path later on?

You see what I mean? You are where you are because of the choices you made. It’s the opportunities as a whole that make us who we are. But appreciating that takes the space to cultivate being thankful.

And that’s my big beef with stores opening on Thanksgiving – it turns that day into just another day to shop. To fill our lives with an activity that lets us feel less alone, less thankful, yet somehow more alive. It’s just another day at the mall – going our separate ways.

The less thankful any of us become, the more callous, insulated, and isolated we become.

Which brings me back to you…

Even if you have to open and be in your store Thanksgiving night … because the mall says so...

Or because you need the money.

Or because you hate your family and don’t want to spend much time with them.

The practice of being thankful is a daily discipline for those who achieve their goals. So today, tomorrow, Black Friday, or White Christmas,I encourage you to pause and list at least five things you are thankful for.

And that includes people and circumstances… not products.

I’m thankful so many of you around the world read my tweets, updates, and books.

I am thankful you watch my videos and take my retail sales training.

I’m thankful that the Internet came along so I had a way to reach so many of you on almost every content within moments of thinking a thought. 

I’m thankful for the boss I had who wouldn’t give me a lower goal when I campaigned for it.

I am thankful for the team of people who support me as I find more opportunities to share what is so in my world.

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