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Saving money has always been important to me. Nothing makes me smile more than knowing I've gotten a bargain on something.
Yet I was one of the people who looked in disdain at the mobs of people who "clowned" as they participated in the Black Friday rituals last week. Many gladly gave up their Thursday evening with family and friends to trudge down to several stores to buy bargains.
Within hours, the Internet was full of videos of the different melees. There was the mob at a Wal-Mart who fought like cats and dogs to get to the pallet of cellphones. A different throng of women stood outside a Victoria Secret store, pushing and shoving to get underwear.
But the saddest video of all was the one with the group of people rushing into a Toys R Us store, and a father announces that if anyone hurts his kids (why did he bring them in the first place?) he would stab and kill them.
This is all done in the name of Jesus, although the truth is many of those who voluntarily participated in it have forgotten that Black Friday is the start of a season that eventually culminates with Christmas Day - a day that is supposed to celebrate the birth of our lord and savior.
Sadly, the Christian holiday has been hijacked by the moneychangers. Retailers are more interested in the dead presidents in your wallet than they are in the meaning of the holiday season.
And those Christians who have fallen for it are even guiltier, as they have obviously not learned a single lesson in church. There are other religions in this country and they, too, celebrate a religious holiday. But you would be hard-pressed to find videos of folks trampling each other for Hanukkah or Ramadan shopping.
I went shopping on Black Friday, but my store of choice didn't open until 9 a.m., as normal. There weren't any lines waiting to get in and once inside, people were courteous, smiling and kind. They even pointed out bargains in case I missed it.
What store did I find with that kind of atmosphere? I found it at Goodwill. Yup, the thrift store that has been around since 1902, and which has updated its image with more stores in nice shopping strip malls, its own discount card and some of the best finds on both second-hand and brand-new items. That was my choice.
I love artwork, and over the years I have collected a lot of lithographs. The pictures are beautiful, but framing costs can be astronomical. The solution? Buy frames at Goodwill and remove the print and place my picture inside. I even bought an ugly seascape oil painting, removed that canvas, replaced it with one of my own and reframed the whole piece. The price of a wood frame alone would have run me close to $100. My Goodwill price? Just $9.99.
Now, admittedly, shopping at Goodwill is hit or miss. I have twice come across some bargain bookcases that were excellent buys and hesitated in purchasing them. When I went back after thinking it over each time, the bookcases were gone.
I promised myself that the third time I found some wonderful bookcases, I would buy them. And I did. I got two 6-foot-tall wood bookcases that were probably once in a school library for 15 bucks each. Try going to Target or Menards and see what they have for that price.
The bookcases are now in my basement and helping me to reorganize my house. Plus by caring where and with whom I spend my money, I am helping those who need help, like recovering substance abusers, those with disabilities and those who have been released from prison. Those are some of the people Goodwill serves. I am also keeping things that might have ended up in a landfill from going there.
So as you do your Christmas shopping, think about with whom you spend your money. Don't forget about the small black-owned businesses. Don't be afraid of thrift stores, as a lot of the stuff they get can be brand new.
And last but not least, sometimes the only gift you ever need to give is the gift of time.