Sunday, December 9, 2012

Walking Challenge: Signs at the Mall

For some time now I have been walking around my neighbourhood expounding upon the virtues of the little things in life. The other day however I had an opportunity to challenge myself as I walked through the mall surrounded by classic Christmas consumer consciousness and commercial consumption. The cavernous mall encompassed all manner of displays. The windows of stores were dressed in lights and garlands and snazzy advertisements drawn up to lure us in. Music streamed through my one ear and just as it poured out the other a new stream of song would enter in again. Bells jangled and shopping bags rustled. Throngs of shoppers moved through the mall with the madness of a rabid pack of wild dogs.
Feeling claustrophobic I side-stepped into a store and took a breath. Looking around I realized I was in my daughter's favourite store. She and a friend were there with me but I had let them wander ahead. Sure enough I caught a glimpse of the girls further into the store. More than that though I noticed a sign.

Celebrate the little things! Of course! I would challenge myself to dismember the mockery that is Christmas at a mall and I would find the worthwhile little things that I could justify celebrating on this particular walk.

Many of the little things that Laura Secord has to offer.
The mall has many little things. The store which I was standing in while I brainstormed my challenge was full of little things. It was a store full of cheap little trinkets, earings and knick knaks. The next store over was full of little treasures and soaps and lip balms. Another store was full of little candies and treats just the right size for stockings. Fortunately, as I was about to find out, the mall was also full of little signs ready for me discover in my scavenger hunt for the worthwhile in all of these little things.                                                                                                                                  
The Best Friend bracelet
Little thing number 1: Holidays bring people togetherSo do malls.    
The mall is evidence of this. Thousands of people marching through, some hand in hand, friends and family spending time together. My daughter and her friend were not Christmas shopping, they were spending time together exploring a budding new relationship and decided that 'BF' bracelets would be the ticket to cementing this new friendship. What they did not realize was that their spending this moment together would be the glue to their friendship. It made me contemplate the idea that perhaps I should not judge the men and women swimming past me at this moment. Maybe they were after meaningful mementos that would serve to cement relationships. I remembered how my friend met her now husband at the mall, and I too first met my husband at the mall. For many people the mall is a place to socialize. The food court is a place to hang out and talk with friends and the mall offers a program through which people can walk for exercise. The mall brings people together and that is just one of the little things I learned to appreciate while I walked with my daughter and her friend.           
    Salvation Army bucket   
Little thing number 2: The mall takes, it also gives.
As soon as I accepted my challenge my mind began to race with all of the good that could be found in the mall. The first thing to cross my mind was though the mall takes our money, so does the Salvation Army. It is an annual tradition in North America to see Santa ring his bell beside the bucket as red as a Christmas sleigh. Santa was busy entertaining children on his knee so I nodded and smiled to the volunteer as I deposited my donation. My daughter followed suit, and so did her friend, pulling out change for the bucket. It was a refreshing change of pace stopping to do something worthwhile. It made me think, maybe the only thoughts going through people`s heads were of the little things they could do to make their loved ones happy such as providing grandma with a warm pair of slippers or a child in need a new snowsuit. A local radio station had set up an area where toy donations could be made and many of the stores had programs whereby shoppers could make donations when making their purchases.It was heartwarming knowing that people do step out of the flow of the crowd to give. Stepping out to the mall can be an opportunity to give as well as to get.
The little bear on the chimney holds a sign that reads `Santa, we`ve been good`

                    Little thing number 3: Being good does not necessitate getting the goods.  
As I walked along I realized how a mall can be a vortex of greed and gluttony on an ordinary weekend but come Christmas it becomes a virtual black hole of melt downs and misery. There were signs everywhere that told me if I was good I would get good things. It was in the music, it was in the lingerie store and of course, it was in the words of Santa himself.  Children are overwhelmed with signs and ads and commercials during this season. Consumerism has warped our values to the point where we find ourselves walking through a mall completely oblivious to the signals that shout to us that material goods will make us happy and fulfilled. We blindly buy based on how we feel and how we think our goods will make others feel but somehow I suspect that these feelings are not virtuous, but virtual.

The goods I want are peace, love and happiness. You cannot find those at a mall, unless of course those attributes are in a future mate, but you can find ways to do good for others. I sometimes take my students to the mall. The mall is a great place for a field trip as there are many tools in a mall for learning and networking, for socializing and being socialized. As long as we walk with conscience through the maze of  materialism that is a mall we may find that it is not so bad a place for a walk after all.

1 comment:

  1. I generally hate malls for the crass consumerism, but you make a good point. They are a meeting place for many. We often take the girls to the restaurant at Carlingwood Mall - it's a nice little family restaurant. It brings the elderly (80 per cent of the clientele) great joy to see our little girls.