I was watching a little television after our Thanksgiving dinner this afternoon, and I noticed a public service announcement about hunger in America. The PSA was a spot for a charity called Feeding America, and Dr. Phil McGraw was the celebrity spokesperson sharing facts about hunger in America with the viewers. He stated, via the non-profit’s studies, that 1 in 6 people in America, the richest country in the world, go hungry. He also stated that 1 in 5 children are going hungry in America as well. If you look on the Feeding America website, they claim that “in 2012, 49.0 million Americans lived in food insecure households, 33.1 million adults and 15.9 million children.” These are statistics that an average citizen expects to hear elsewhere–we’re used to thinking that malnutrition and hunger exists in underdeveloped, third world countries, and not in the United States. What is really frightening is the fact that there are also many children who are both clinically obese and malnourished at the same time due to the diet given to them at home–whatever the reasons may be, be it financial, parenting skills, location, lack of education, etc.
Immediately after the PSA alerting the American public of the growing hunger epidemic on our soil, I saw a commercial from Toys ‘R’ Us for Black Friday, advertising toys and game consoles for hundreds of dollars–big, bold, bright, eye catching fonts to attract the attention of both children and parents. You must have this toy NOW! Everyone else will have this toy! This specific item will make or break your children’s holiday! Buy! Buy! Buy!
To be fair to Toys ‘R’ Us, they were not the only Black Friday advertisement I saw–JCPenney had an ad with a family being encouraged by carolers to hurry, hurry, hurry, and clear those Thanksgiving dinner plates because it is time to shop, shop, shop (no exaggeration). I also saw advertisements for Kohl’s, a mattress store, Wal-Mart, Best Buy, and my email inbox was glutted throughout the day with images and banners trying to convince me to go out and spend money I don’t have. Don’t have it to spend this year? No worries, friend, we have CREDIT for you! Pittsburgh’s NBC affiliate shared a story on their website where they show their audience that Black Friday sales aren’t really the best deals around, and parents and grandparents disregarded this, and made comments like, “I will not make my kids or grandkids wait (for the hot presents this year.)”
I saw these two ads juxtaposed, one discussing rampant hunger in America, and the other epitomizing the gluttony that has consumed our holidays and many of our citizens, who, might I add, trample each other in big box stores to get a cheap flat screen television, and I just felt nauseous.
Where are our priorities? When did our nation become so greedy, so gluttonous? When did we stick our heads in the sand, willing to ignore those suffering around us? When did we start putting “things” and plastic Chinese toys and kitchen electrics over providing for our families, our neighbors, our loved ones?
The system is broken, folks.
Stop glorifying Black Friday, stop buying on credit, stop purchasing in excess. Stop stampeding into stores on Black Friday, with complete and utter disregard for those around you, just to fill a cart full of “stuff.” Just plain stop.
No one is saying not to buy Christmas gifts, but do it in cash. Support your local businesses. Make more gifts, give more time, and less trinkets. And instead of focusing so much time and attention on scoring the best deal at midnight tonight, consider volunteering your time at a food pantry instead tomorrow, or donating a meal, or spend more time paying attention to those who might be in need around you. Learn to garden, to put food by, to cook from scratch, to mend, to do without sometimes.
The fact that 1 in 6 Americans in this nation are going hungry should be the priority tonight–not camping outside of the shopping mall.
Food for thought.