Thanksgiving has come and gone, and the stories about wacky family get-togethers are just coming around. Who ate too much of what, who spilled what over someone else's lap/bag/jacket/shoes. Which cousin forgot to bring their side dish. Which brother cheated and used store-bought rolls rather than homemade.

Monday is going to be an interesting day of story telling.

Not only do we have Thanksgiving to recount, we have the chaos that is Black Friday. Hordes of shoppers standing in the rain all night just to snag an early morning "door buster" deal. Multiple loops through the parking lot hunting for one open spot among the acres of packed asphalt. Horror stories of shoppers gone wild over the last whachamacallit of the season.

From looking at Facebook, it's obvious that the holiday shopping season has begun in full. Various friends and family members are announcing they've finished their shopping list entirely, almost bemoaning the lost opportunity to shop through the rest of the year. Others are just making their lists or publishing "must haves" for all to see.

It's quite an interesting sight to behold.

It also makes me think hard about the things we take for granted in our first-world bubble.


When I go to the cash register to buy a box of knickknacks for stockings or the latest game for my brother, I have the option to pay with cash, with a personal check, with my debit card, or with a credit card. It's amazing, really, that there are so many different ways for people to take my money.

When I was in Haiti, though, everything was cash only. The thought that you would trust another person to honor a check (if they even had one) was ridiculous. For many, banks are untrustworthy or miles away from a reasonable trip to make a deposit. Debit cards? Many stores didn't even have power, let alone a card reader. Credit? There is no sense of credit or lending in much of the world to begin with - in many cases because the borrower has absolutely no collateral to borrow against.

I stood in line this weekend, hoping to get deals on wall decor and various other furnishings for my home. Sometimes, I was incredibly frustrated when I'd missed a deal - paintings are only 20% when the rest of the store is 30%?!

Again, I thought back to Haiti. Most of the homes were hand built and again, every brick was paid for in cash. No mortgages, no work crews to build things quickly. Some homes took generations to construct. And furnishings? I helped repair the roof above a little girl's room. All she owned was a bed (made from a few sticks lashed together and covered with bedding) and a crate with her clothing.

There's so much we have access to in our well-off, first-world lives that we take for granted. So much that we argue, complain, or nitpick that other people in the world can't even fathom worrying about. We fight for a place in line to buy a new video game or a discount TV while much of the rest of the world lives without electricity - or even clean water to drink.

The holiday season is good for many things: connecting with family, spoiling friends, and reflecting on the many wonderful things we have in life. Let this year be more of the latter. Take some time to reflect on the things you have in your life and put your needs and expectations in perspective with what really matters in life.