Monday, December 2, 2013

The Holiday Question: When Is Enough, Enough?

Enough (adjective) 1.adequate for the want or need; sufficient for the purpose or to satisfy desire                           
 --American Heritage Dictionary

When is enough, enough? As in having enough stuff? You know, things: baubles, bling, gadgets, toys, possessions.

Depends on who asks and who answers that question. Most Americans will be answering it, by spending $602 billion dollars in holiday purchases during the next twenty days, right up until the 25th.

Is that enough? 

According to the National Retail Federation (NRF), which calls itself “the voice of retail worldwide” that average holiday shopper will spend “$737.95 on gifts, décor, greeting cards and more.” The NRF even breaks this figure down: $129.62 on self-gifting (when you buy a holiday gift for yourself), $415.50 on family gifts, $72.14 on friends, $23.59 on co-workers, and $25.63 on others (like pets). Then there’s food and candy at $100.35, greeting cards at $28.03, flowers at $21.12 and finally decorations at $51.60. 

Wow. Who knew?  Makes me wonder if I’ll be able to meet my personal consumption quota in the next three weeks.  If I do end up spending that much in total, will that then finally be enough?

All that stuff to buy and give and get is also on top of how much we Americans already have, all of our accumulated material possessions.  We do have a lot.  Ninety one percent of us own a cellphone.  The average American household has more TVs on average (2.86) than people living within it: 2.5 folks. Then there’s our cars: 800 for every 1,000 of us.  Our computers and tablets too: about 60 percent of us own at least one. 

And we don’t even have to worry about where to store all that abundance. We’re well covered in terms of having the space to cram all this stuff into. The average size of a new American home is now 2,306 feet. In 1950 that number was 938 square feet, so in a little more than a half a century we’ve upsized home sweet home by 140 percent. 

Is that enough?

A confession.  I’m right up there with the best of consumers. I have one TV, three computers, a smart phone, a car, and a big house so I’m as convicted as anyone else of not yet saying “enough is enough”.  All of these communal stuff statistics also leave out the 16 percent of Americans who live at or below the poverty line. For many of them enough is not enough. Their shortage is not about things, but about a lack of the basic needs of human life: food, shelter, transportation, clothes, health care. Me? I do have more than enough and then some. They have barely enough, if at all. 

Makes the question of “when is enough, enough?” that much more pressing, and maybe not so hard to answer.  Do I finally enough?  Yes.  Since I already have enough, maybe I could take some of that holiday budget money and instead of buying, I could give that cash away to someone else who does not have enough. Hmmm. Just a thought.

The ironic truth is that all of this buying and consuming in the 12th month of the year has its roots in a once simple religious holiday which marked the birth of an infant boy in a backwater ancient Middle Eastern town, 2,000 years ago.  His entry into the world that evening was marked by a singular hope, sung out by the angels. 

“Peace on earth and goodwill to all people.”

Even if we don’t claim that specific faith tradition or any tradition, this vision is a beautiful one for the world, especially in these days and times. An end to war and conflict.  Enough food for the hungry. Enough shelter for the homeless. Enough love for the lonely.  Enough hope for the despairing.

Kind of puts all this talk of “enough” in perspective. The question still lingers.  When is enough, enough?  We need to ask. We need to answer.

So enough already. I’m done.  How about you?




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