Published 2:29 pm Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Once upon a time, the fourth Thursday in November was reserved to allow friends and families to pause from their everyday life and focus on the divine gifts that our Lord has given us. Most people focused on the one greatest gift we have — our families. It was a time when family members returned home to share the experiences of the last year over a table of food; a time for multiple generations to reconnect.

This still occurs, but over the years, we have learned new terms that have crowded out the important bonding of generations past. Those new terms now saturate the airwaves in the weeks ahead. Such words as Black Friday and Cyber Monday now drown us in hype. As usual, competition drives the messages longer and louder as time goes on. First, the Black Fridays opened earlier and earlier on the Friday after Thanksgiving, then they began opening on Thanksgiving Day! Many stores began offering a few great deals to the first customers through the doors. Deals that encouraged buyers to line up outside the store leaving the thought of the reason for Thanksgiving trampled by the rush to get the best deals.

Not to be outdone, internet marketers decided they, too, had to have a focus. They chose the Monday after Thanksgiving as their response to Black Friday, naming it Cyber Monday. Driven by competition and determined to not let the in-store sales take all our money, they needed to advertise ahead of Black Friday. This year, both in-store and internet sales continued their battle. Each offered some of their deals starting earlier and earlier, going full circle from just a few years ago. Now the deals are often available a week ahead in the effort to get your business.

What is the purpose of this advertising and these sales? It is to encourage you, the consumer, to decide to spend your Christmas gift-giving money with them rather than their competition. For a period of six weeks or longer, you will be encouraged to buy more and more gifts for family, friends, co-workers and anyone else that might touch your life. This is leaving many people depressed and discouraged that they cannot do all that might be expected of them.

Maybe it would be better to refocus ourselves as to why we started celebrating Christmas and Thanksgiving — celebrating the birth of Jesus and thanking God for the life that he has given us.

To reach out to return and refocus us on what is truly important this time of year, maybe we could pause from the rush, rush, rush this time of year. Pause any length of time that suits your schedule. Let’s call it ChristGiving. Take some time to step away from the rush and focus your heart, mind and soul on things other than shopping and meeting someone else’s expectation. Focus once again on those things that are most important to you, your families and health and welfare. Focus once again on your relationship with your religious beliefs and your faith and the life given to you. Too often, we have allowed gift giving to be the greater focus than our spiritual connection to our faith.

After that pause, however long, you can return to whatever drives you. For that time of pause, you will at least remember what is important.

Frank Ruff represents Lunenburg in the Senate. His email address is or 434-374-5129, or P.O. Box 332, Clarksville, VA 23927.