Why Black Friday should be RAK Friday

A few years ago my husband and I decided we would venture out and see what the whole “midnight shopping on Black Friday” was all about. We pulled into the mall parking lot already full of cars around 11:45 p.m. and began walking toward Macy’s. We didn’t know the shopping protocol or the rules for doing the Black Friday thing. We didn’t know what the sales were going to be or where we should even start.

When we arrived at the entrance to Macy’s, there was already a crowd forming. Brady and I exchanged glances, mostly confused ones, but decided to just hang out and see what was going to happen next. At the stroke of midnight, Macy’s sales people threw open the gate and pretty much ducked and rolled out of the way. When the crowd began to move, Brady’s eyes shifted to me and he lifted his eyebrows. I shrugged my shoulders and we blindly followed the massive crowd into the store.

The walkers broke into a run, pushing past racks of dresses and make-up counters. Where were they headed? Our shopper’s paradise was apparently the shoe section because once we arrived, people began wrecking a pyramid stack of boxed something or others. I couldn’t wait to see what was inside, so I casually looked for size 10 and pulled one from the pile.

Ah, my treasure was boots. I waded through tissue paper and cardboard, slogging toward the “trying on” space. Frenzy and frantic filled the air. I was in a time warp, everything flying around me as I sat gingerly in a chair and pulled on my boots. More scavengers joined the fray, ultimately knocking over the pretty pyramid and piling their arms high with boxes and boxes of boots (who needs that many identical boots?).

I checked my super cheap on sale Black Friday boots in the mirror. Eh, they were okay. Sure, they were ten bucks, but they were just okay. But they were ten bucks! I had this mind fight with myself for a few seconds, but ultimately I carefully placed the boots back in the tissue, closed the box, and placed it on the haphazard pile only to have them snagged immediately by a shopper who had been stealthily creeping on my entire experience.

When Brady and I finally found each other (after marking ourselves “safe” on Facebook and geocaching our locations), we had nothing in our arms to show for our Black Friday escapade. There was nothing we really needed, or frankly, wanted to buy. The sales were cool, but they seemed to be this vortex of manipulation, sucking us into purchasing stuff we didn’t really even need. But beyond that, it made us into alien people, running blindly, ignoring all sense of reason and normalcy.

After every Black Friday, I read news stories of children being trampled to death, people injured and hospitalized, parents fighting over the last Tickle Me Elmo. When I was a kid, it was the Cabbage Patch Kid craze. I wanted one, too, and my little eyes watched the news stories of big box stores hiding them behind soup cans, tricking the shoppers so there wasn’t so much conflict in the aisles.

Two years ago my family decided to participate in RAK Friday on Black Friday. We went out and bought a bunch of candy canes and took them with us to the movie theatre. We went about an hour early so we could hand out our treats. We started by asking the management if it was okay – and we got a resounding YES! Everyone in our family began offering the candy canes to all the entering moviegoers.

Almost everyone looked at us in disbelief. They didn’t understand why we were there and why we were offering something for free without a hitch. Some people ignored us completely. But many – most – were grateful. They stopped and smiled. The movie management gave my niece free popcorn. Another lady gave my daughter a dollar. It was awesome to watch the transformation. The lobby of the movie theatre felt a little, well, lighter. The heaviness of stress and strain and strife left the building. I watched my 9 year old daughter and my 5 year old niece giving instead of getting.

It was what I wanted to model for my daughter on what can be the greediest day of the year.

My friends, I can be as materialistic as the next person, and it doesn’t take Black Friday to make that happen. But it took RAK Friday to remind me about what is important and how a small act of kindness can make a significant difference in my life, my family’s lives, and the lives of others.

It can be as simple as paying for the person behind you at Starbucks, holding the door, or leaving a dollar on the Red Box matchine, but I dare you to rock a Black day by making it ALSO a RAK day. I promise you it will make a difference.