My Thanksgiving Day newspaper weighs 4 lbs. I know because I stood on the bathroom scale with it, chock full of spectacular blow-out doorbuster prices. Giant lettering, ecstatic models and a pervasive shiny newness all exuding that subliminal message…you need this.
This is in stark contrast to the front page article detailing the late summer flood, courtesy of Tropical Storm Lee, that devastated Owego, NY, a small town about a hundred miles south of here. Eighty percent of the 1,600 homes were damaged or destroyed. No doubt that the people there could probably stand to pay a deeply discounted price for all the trappings that make a home function, but I suspect their sense of “need” has shifted. The Black Friday marketing machine has not hypnotized them into wanting more and more. They need new sofas, stoves, dishes, shoes, coats, blenders, drills, vacuum cleaners, and toys because the ones they had were washed away in a flood.
I find this time of year to have a distorting effect on the sense of “need.” It is a subjective term, categorized, at least, by socioeconomic status, age, health and geography. The need list of a thirteen year old middle class American girl will be a serious matter related mostly to her social status; the need list of a thirteen year old Sudanese girl in will be very different. I won’t try to guess what she needs, but I suspect her list would not mention Justin Bieber.
Today is the best I have felt in the last fourteen days. A nagging cough progressed into a head cold which over the course of a weekend descended into a raging sinus infection. On Day 8, my need list was simple: 1. Sleep, and, 2. a prescription for antibiotics. As the antibiotics began to work, violent coughing caused me to throw out my back. For me, “need” became, in the wee hours of the night when I shuffled uncomfortably between bed and recliner, a primal thing. I needed to be able to breathe. I needed the searing pain in my back to subside so that I could properly cough. And move. Then our Thanksgiving house guest arrived. Then came hosting the Thanksgiving meal for five people. Then a day trip the day after Thanksgiving for another family gathering.
I could not have survived the past week without the excellent care of my husband and the pitching-in of our house guest, one of my oldest and best friends from college. I needed them. (And, based on how many empty tissue boxes are in our recycling bin, about 500 tissues).
As we all link arms and skip happily into another holiday season, I need to remember that I’m no judge of what someone else needs. I guess I’ll have to focus on what I can give.