Friday, November 23, 2012

Black Friday, Thanksgiving and The Sabbath

It's Black Friday. Yippee. Not.

I considered a career in retailing at one point in my life. I took classes in the then-new Skaggs Institute of Retailing Management at BYU, and I did a retailing internship. I actually enjoyed the work, and it was my first introduction to business courses (I was an English major in search of some employability).

And I did work in retailing for a few years. I had my wife's grandmother trying to coax us into pursuing a career in retailing in Mesa; she told us that area would grow exponentially over the years and there would surely be lots of opportunity. And I would have loved to go to Mesa, but my lovely wife was not enamoured of such hot summers and non-existant winters. She's a four-season person.

In the end, I did not stay in retailing. There were lots of reasons, but one of them was Black Friday. And not so much Black Friday but the whole holiday shopping thing. It meant that every holiday season I would be working and not spending time with my family. And that would be true for the Thanksgiving to Christmas period and the post-Christmas returns period.

In another phase of my career development, I was working on a PhD in Theatre History (I never said this was a linear progression). I had finished my MA in Theatre History at BYU and was encouraged by my committee to pursue the PhD elsewhere, which made sense to me. When I arrived at the school of my choice (my selection criteria was particularly poor: I wanted a school that would accept me) I found that I was at odds with my program in a number of ways. My academic interest was different from my adviser's. My program's choice of plays in that year's season were not to my liking (and some were downright offensive to me, despite my rather less-than-prudish taste). And then there was the Sunday work. Sunday rehearsals and performance were the rule. The work on the annual summer Shakespeare festival was the bright spot for me, but by the time that rolled around, I had made the decision to leave the program.

It occured to me that if I taught pretty much anywhere but BYU, I'd be working Sundays at least part of the year as part of my academic duties. It caused me to reflect on what I really wanted from my life. My long-term goals were really pretty traditional. My lovely wife and I wanted a nice family, reared in the gospel with church activity complementing our lives. And I struggled to see how Sunday work would fit in that plan.

So I walked away from my PhD program. The Sunday work was not the only reason as I mentioned, but it was one of several.

I am the first to acknowledge that others may make a different choice from mine in the same situation, and that may be ok for them and for their family. I have a number of good friends who are in positions that require Sunday work; they are faithful, participating Latter-day Saints in all levels of church activity and leadership. But I decided I was not comfortable being one of them.

I'm happy to say that in my present 25-year career, I can count the times I've missed church because of work on one hand. That's not a badge of honor for comparison with others, but it's rather a blessing to me. I'm grateful that I was able to find a place in which I could honor the Sabbath in the way that is important to me.

And I'm really glad I didn't have to work at a retail outlet today.


  1. I drove down to Toys R Us last night after Thanksgiving dinner was over. I felt so guilty the whole way down there, and turned right around a came home. It really felt like breaking the Sabbath to me for some reason.

    Always happy to find another theater nerd! Though you have actual credentials and I never got a part that wasn't "chorus" in high school.

  2. I joke with my kids that Thanksgiving is like Sunday with TV and no church. Once when we lived in Japan, we realized we had not brought a pie pan with us, so on Thanksfgiving morning (I'd taken the day as vacation), I took the streetcar to a local department store and bought a pie pan. At that time, open stores on Thansgiving in the US were as rare as hens' teeth, and it was a really weird feeling to me.

    1. That's funny, and I completely understand!

  3. I used to work retail and always dreaded the holidays, especially Black Friday. I missed every holiday and weekends with my family. I refuse to do retail again. People are horrible anyway but during the holidays attitudes are worse. I miss the good old days when stores closed for Thanksgiving and especially for Christmas.