It had been
a while since I last ventured forth to the Walden Galleria and I
can say that it was not a destination much missed. What drew me
there was perhaps a need to dispel or reinforce my observations
of social behavior associated with "this time of year". The
time of year in question you ask? Our most cherished of holidays,
Christmas. Now, the word Christmas conjures up such things as goodwill
toward men, peace, caring, joy, reverence, giving, sacrifice, family,
God, and a myriad of other frequently tossed about sentiments yet,
what we see on a whole, is quite different from the aforementioned
The trip to the mall
was ominous in and of itself. It was a Saturday, approximately 3:00pm.
Pedaling east on my bicycle, I approached the intersection of Walden
Ave and Harlem Rd. Much to my amazement, traffic was backed up and
at a stand still as far as the eye could see heading toward the
direction of the mall. My first thoughts were of an accident. I
prayed no one was hurt. Carefully I made my way past the stationary
vehicles, observing the faces of frustration that pushed past the
dashboards in a desperate and vain attempt to coax the traffic forward.
Onward I pedaled only to realize there was no accident (relief).
This mile and a half of a stationary, winding, metal, exhaust spewing
leviathan was the line to the mall entrance. At this point I could
not help but wonder how many oil producing, oppressive, fundamental
regimes were being supported by this wasteful consumption of fossil
fuels (another story, another time).
In due time, I arrived
at my destination. Shaking off the embrace of winters chill, I entered
the confines of the mall. I was greeted with the warm sounds of
Christmas music emanating from overhead but before my eyes . . .
, before my eyes was a scene more reminiscent of an ant farm I once
kept as a child. To and fro the mass of humanity hurriedly and frantically
shifted. Having no particular destination or chore, I made my way
through the bustling crowd. In my quest I searched the faces and
listened to the conversations around me. My observation was this
- In far, far too many cases, I was confronted with impatience,
rudeness, anger, looks and words of despair and grim lifeless faces.
There was such aloneness in this meeting of many. Apparently, the
only focus was commerce.
Certainly I saw signs
of joy and sincere warmth amongst the throng, but this was the exception
not the rule. And the often overlooked and mistreated salespeople
and clerks! What a gallant job they did in the wake of much bad
behavior. With smiles on their weary faces, they pressed on. Attempting,
as hard as it was in some cases, to assist and please even the most
obnoxious of customers. A round of applause goes out to them. Now,
by this time I, too, am feeling a bit of despair. "Where is
the spirit of Christmas?" I looked to the children, for surely
I would find it there. I found it in the eyes and wonderment of
the very young. A good place to observe this is at Santa's location.
The unjaded innocence of youth, it still exists. But . . . Yes,
there is a 'but'. As the age of the children increased, so did their
resemblance to their adult counterparts. Many, ill mannered at best,
loudly proclaimed their want or need of some "can't live without"
toy. I wondered if they ever had or ever will know the true meaning
of want and need. Alas, my feet and soul grew weary. One more stop.
During my trek, I had
passed a place with some benches for me to rest. Also, there was
a man who sat upon a stool, guitar in hand. He was quite good and
had a pleasant voice. Next to this gifted caroler was a familiar
sight, the donation receptacle of the Salvation Army. I sat in this
spot for 45 minutes, watching. What did my wondering eyes see? First
I realized what had stuck me a little odd when first I had past
this way. In a place where the people where locked shoulder to shoulder
in their waltz of want, around this man was a clearing of about
8 feet. As if there was an invisible and impenetrable barrier. I
watched as the shoppers approached and passed this man. Once aware
of what the gentleman represented, once silent comrades would erupt
in spontaneous, absorbing conversation only to fall silent once
again as the 'zone of recognition' was passed. Faces were cast to
the ground, eyes darted to other corners of the mall and others
remained locked in vacuous forward stares. In those 45 minutes,
the donation pail was only filed once. And all the time the music
all around proclaimed all sorts of virtuous human behavior. I saw
very little of it in actual practice. I came away saddened wondering
if there is hope for our lost humanity.
Understand this; I realize
I am a bit biased and the mall can only be described as the Sodom
and Gomorrah of material greed, but I was disheartened that day.
We are bombarded daily in all forms of media. "Show the gift
of love this Christmas with (insert product name); Let them know
you care this holiday, buy . . . " Excuse my ignorance, I was
unaware that love and caring were commodities that could be purchased,
cash or charge! I know there are still thoughtful, caring, loving
and giving people out there, but the momentum continues to move
farther away from such social traits. Therefore, do not condemn
me if I distance myself from these things. It's not the spirit of
Christmas I reject (not at all), rather, it's the way the celebration
is performed and the motivations behind it.