Today is Thanksgiving, a day most Americans properly regard as a special occasion wrapped in generous goodwill and gratitude, a day cherished for its cheerful family reunions and hearty servings of turkey with all the dressings.
But this year this holiday has, to some, also emerged as the unofficial first day of the Christmas shopping season, and several of the nation’s largest retailers are being roundly criticized for requiring their employees to work on a day that is steeped in tradition and was never conceived as simply an opportunity to stimulate sales.
The criticism is understandable, and yet the fact is that these retailers would never consider being open for business today if they weren’t reasonably certain millions of Americans will take advantage of the open doors to begin their seasonal shopping sprees, no matter how strongly others may criticize the practice.
Furthermore, the employees who are separated from their loved ones on Thanksgiving because of the perceived greed of their insensitive employers are by no means alone.
Look around: On Thanksgiving, as on any other holiday, there are many individuals who will spend the holiday toiling in police and fire stations, emergency rooms and other hospital facilities and in countless other places that are far from their dinner table. They serve without complaint.
Those jets in the sky don’t fly by themselves. Trains, buses and taxis all have to be operated by human beings.
And please don’t forget the military. Our troops may be fed a hearty meal to celebrate the occasion, but many, including those serving in dangerous places, will be on duty throughout the day.
That said, today does stand out among the holidays we observe because it is driven by the gratitude most of us feel for the way of life we may sometimes take for granted in this most fortunate country.
But most Americans understand that their gratitude on this day is sincere and uncritical. And if they prefer to stay home all day, enjoy a special meal and maybe catch a football game on television, that doesn’t diminish their appreciation of their lives in a country that wouldn’t, and shouldn’t, prohibit shopping on Thanksgiving.