SideWalk Ghosts / Interview 77: “Whatever It Is, We Are Part Of Something”

It’s Thursday morning and I’m prepping for the afternoon Thanksgiving meal to come. It’s the one meal of the year that is pure gluttony married to a feast with a purpose: “To be thankful for my blessings and the family that I have.” As dysfunctional as it can be at times, I still love them, and as usual, I prepare not only for a giant meal, but ready myself to experience every emotion smashed into a very short time. Every year we gather at one destination, my sister’s house in Laguna Hills. We come from all over to reunite, eat, sleep and to partake of the tradition of all traditions, The Black Friday Sales.

I’m not the shopper of the group; my role, catch up on sleep and to keep the couch soft and warm for afternoon movies. I’m good with that. My wife is the line keeper, the most patient of the bunch (and because is not interested in the sales) is drafted to hold spots in line as the rest of the group plan their strategy for the next bargain. It’s sort of leap-frog thing, very well orchestrated with the finesse of a highly planned military operation. You’ve got to see it to appreciate it.

This year I have one other laid back companion in by sleeping brigade, my Nephew Aaron.

Shopping countdown has begun, T-minus nine-hours and counting to the 12am commencement of “Operation Shop-Hop.” Over the aroma of foods almost ready for consumption, the troops begin to strategize, “The Disney Store is opening at 12am, are we going? Are we getting up at 5am or 6am!? The line is already forming at Best Buy, do we go there or not?”

Already lining up at Best Buy? Never have I lined up for days to hit a sale. I’m extremely interested. And enlisting the support of Nephew Aaron, I set out to investigate.

We drive to Best Buy and spy a line of chairs, tents and bundled people. All looking like hearty shoppers and numbering around fifty. Why hearty shoppers? It’s cold, looks like rain is coming and the store doors don’t even open for over 24 hours.

Up to the front of the line we quest and are completely rejected by chair one. Chair two nods us off, followed by the support of chairs three and four. Fifth in line takes it to a new level, “I can’t have my photo taken, I’m in the Government.” We appreciate the humor and move on. Didn’t feel right anyway.

Past the chaired shoppers and up to the first set of tents we travel. I’m now even more inquisitive in my desire to be allowed into this boutique culture. At tent one, we meet two well equipped young gents. Their post looks more like a mountaineers base camp than that of a waiting for a sale encampment.

I’m telling you, these guys have it down, multiple tents, lightweight chairs, sleeping bags, provisions, even power and television (got to have some luxury). I need to understand Black Friday and they look like they know exactly how things work. Perhaps they will enlighten us, I extend a hand of 365 fellowship.

By the way, there is one item I’ve already found out from the front of the line. The encampment started on Tuesday. The store opens on Friday. You do the math. I do a little in my head and come to this conclusion, “There is no way I’m sleeping on the curb, possibly in the rain, for three nights to get a $199 forty-two inch flat screen.”

What I quickly learn, from our camping friends, Twan and Chris, it’s not all about the sale, it’s about the experience and bonding with friends.

“We’ve been doing this for six years. It’s our chance to hang out and catch up.”

Twan and Chris are very gracious, offering Aaron and I chairs in inviting us to stay a while. We join camp and I realize the eyes, that were earlier upon us as strangers, have settled down. Thirty minutes into our exchange, even one of the first to reject us (I think chair three) strolls over to engage in the conversation, there is obviously something peaking his attention. Is it me, or is it Twan, or Chris? I can’t say. But whatever it is, we are now part of something.

Our discussion starts out as do most introductions. I speak of the origins of 365, my families interest in Black Friday and we exchange a few general questions; you know, the basic common graces in getting comfortable with each other stuff.

We chat for about thirty minutes and the topics lean towards the future and wisdom for the readers of 365.

Here is where my earlier questions is answered. “Is it me, or is it Twan or Chris? I can’t say. But whatever it is, we are now part of something.”

I think it is Chris.

Not two minutes before we are visited by chair three, Chris says this to me, “I am a Christian. Just thirty minutes before you guys showed up, I said a prayer asking for a chance to share what I believe.”

Our topic as we are visited by vicarious friend three: Faith and the Bible. Now I must state, I do have my beliefs, but do not proclaim them openly in 365. From the beginning I have continually reminded us that 365 is an open discussion of whatever my interviewees decide to share. My job is to draw no conclusions, and other than the occasional blurb for a small business, do not promote any spiritual, or political agendas.

Yet, as is our visitor from chair three, I am engaged in the topic. Chris quotes several poignant scriptural passages.

From Philippians, Chapter 4 / Verse 13:

“I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me.”

From Matthew, Chapter 6 / Verses 25 to 33:

“25 Therefore I say unto you, Take no thought for your life, what ye shall eat, or what ye shall drink; nor yet for your body, what ye shall put on. Is not the life more than meat, and the body than raiment?

26 Behold the fowls of the air: for they sow not, neither do they reap, nor gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feedeth them. Are ye not much better than they?

27 Which of you by taking thought can add one cubit unto his stature?

28 And why take ye thought for raiment? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they toil not, neither do they spin:

29 And yet I say unto you, That even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these.

30 Wherefore, if God so clothe the grass of the field, which to day is, and to morrow is cast into the oven, shall he not much more clothe you, O ye of little faith?

31 Therefore take no thought, saying, What shall we eat? or, What shall we drink? or, Wherewithal shall we be clothed?

32 (For after all these things do the Gentiles seek:) for your heavenly Father knoweth that ye have need of all these things.

33 But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.

In the words of Twan (Who by the way, comes from a Buddhist background):

“No matter how many times you fall dawn, pick yourself up. Follow your dream and keep filling the well.”

Our vicarious listener of chair three leaves, Twan expresses his thanks for the discussion and Aaron and I travel back to the family shopping cayos.

“Follow your dream and keep filling the well.” Twan says, I think he is talking about having faith and letting go to a higher power.

All I can say is this, No matter Gentile or Jew, Muslim or Hindu, We are all in this life together and someone is listing in guiding us to a better path.

Funny how the holidays bring out the best in so many.

Per the line, I get it now. Sure, many are here for the deals, But the best of it, people are here to be with people. And the presence of Chris and Twan is inspired.

Great breaking bread with you my friends!

Now I’m off to eat!