Preparing for Grace

by Ericka Stephens-Rennie

On November 25-26, my newsfeed was filled with updates from friends living in the USA and Canadian border towns. These updates weren’t about their thoughts on international events (e.g. the NATO attack on the Pakistan border, or new elections in Egypt); they weren’t about what they were thankful for as they celebrated with their families; and they mostly weren’t about local or personal events either. As far as I could tell from my news feed, the only thing happening those two days was a massive shopping spree spurred on by super-low prices on brand name goods mostly made with cheap labour from somewhere else.

My go-to news media weren’t much better with CBC, the New York Times and even the BBC joining in on the fun of “analyzing” which stores had used the best advertising strategy, which consumers had the “best approach” to snagging the best and hottest deals in the largest quantities, and what effect this all might have on our “lagging economy.”

Indeed. What effect might this have on our lagging economy? Can you tell me more about how I might do my part to turn this shit around?

Am I the only one confused? Because depending on the news story, commentator or economics-savvy blogger, the problem is either that we’ve all spent too much and are too heavily indebted, or that we’re not spending enough and we should be more indebted.

(And can I just say, if the stock market was a real person – a friend, a family member, perhaps – we would have long ago turfed his ass for being an unreliable, manipulative waster. The whims of his opinion seem not to depend on fact, or intention, but rather on his mood, or what “investors are saying.” Why hello schizophrenic, ever thought of treatment?)

In the midst of all this noise, I used to be able to count on a seasonal reminder that I have a choice. That I can opt out of the crazy. That I can Buy Nothing. But this year, the voice of Buy Nothing Day (compliments of Adbusters Magazine, of Occupy fame) was strangely…convoluted. This year, it wasn’t about buying nothing on the weekend North America looses its mind and is completely governed only by wants and desires for more random shit. This year, it was suddenly about #occupyxmas.

“Make a vow to yourself: sometime this Xmas season I’ll join a local credit union and leave the big banks behind.”

“Organize a whirly mart, santa sit-in or Jesus walk.”

“If you buy presents pay the extra few dollars to buy from a local merchant or ‘mom and pop’ retailer.”

This is different than Buy Nothing Day. Buy Nothing Day was a political and economic statement against hyper-consumerism on a day that symbolized the annual saving grace of the retail economy. Choosing to abstain on such a day was a powerful reminder that my Saving Grace is found some where other than new stuff. Choosing to abstain was an act of resistance against the supremacy of the idea that trickle down economics works, and that it’s all not a façade to keep the money trickling upstream to (ok, I’ll say it) the 1%.

On the other hand, the missing voice of Buy Nothing Day reminded me that I am responsible, amidst all the noise, to make room in my head and heart for a still small voice to awaken a desire. To awaken my desire to prepare my heart for the birth of the Saving Grace we all need.

So here is my vow, and it has nothing to do with banking

I vow that amidst the other preparations I do – the baking, the holiday party hosting and even the buying of gifts – I will remember, prepare for and look forward to a Grace that came to earth in the form of an unexpected baby born to an impoverished young couple.

Ericka Stephens-Rennie

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