11/23/2009 12:57 pm ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Black Friday and How to Better Spend That $372.57

This week marks my 32nd Thanksgiving holiday. This week also marks the 32nd time, give or take the few years I was sublimely oblivious to the atrocity of "Black Friday," that I have witnessed a frightening display of consumerism. For those who do not know the term, "Black Friday" is the day after Thanksgiving where people line up outside of stores during the wee hours of the morning to buy stuff...and lots of it.

Each year it seems these lines get more and more vicious as retailers snag people into thinking that this is the ONLY time they will ever find a deal for Christmas Treasures. People have actually been trampled by those who have an irrational fear of missing out on the hot new toy that retailers spend millions of dollars pushing on the unsuspecting public.

The "American way" is to make the holiday season about buying; yet we insist on calling this a season for giving. People go into an extended spending frenzy in an effort to show how much they really care. We're told that caring equals buying. Our spending as a nation is out of hand as it is. We buy billions of dollars of useless products each year in a misguided effort to create better lives for ourselves. If we took the time to actually improve our communities and the lives of those around us then maybe we would be satisfied with who we are as individuals.

Last year (2008) the average consumer in America spent approximately $372.57 on Black Friday at giant retailers. Instead of going on a tirade about the giants and their campaign to get America deeper into debt, it might be better to offer an alternate way to spend your money.

After quite a bit of research, I found the following items on sale. We'll just call this Cicily's Discount Mart. If I had a more sophisticated ad-design software than Microsoft Word, I would circulate an ad across the nation in hopes of having people line up at my door at 3 a.m. for these items.

This year only $372.57 can buy you the following:

(all numbers are approximate)

  • 1 month of health care coverage for one person in the United States

  • 7 weeks of food for one child under the age of ten
  • 2 weeks of food for a family of four
  • 1 semester's worth of textbooks for a college student
  • 2.5 months of electricity
  • 12 winter jackets for children
  • 14 months of birth control pills or other contraceptive methods for one woman
  • 15 months of prescription drug coverage
  • 3 manual wheelchairs for disabled men and women
  • 1 month of rent in a lower-income housing development or apartment complex
  • 1 M-16 Rifle for our troops overseas
  • 19 Fleece Blankets
  • 1 acre of land in rural West Texas
  • 30 Oak Tree Saplings
  • 1 new computer for an underprivileged school
  • 2 years of a season subscription to the symphony (Orchestra level tickets)
  • 1 12x18 original oil painting by a struggling artist in your community
  • 2 8x10 original oil paintings by a college art student
  • 1 semester class at your local community college
  • 1 to 3 round trip plane tickets to have actual face time with loved ones in the continental United States
  • 1.5 years of dental care
  • 5 months of internet access for one U.S. household
  • 15 years of state park passes
  • 1 year membership to local fitness/health club
  • 5 one-hour appointments with a registered dietitian
  • 3 one-hour sessions with a certified financial planner
  • 1 complete course of study to become a Certified Nurse's Assistant (Major Shortage across the United States for this very important job)
  • 8 dental exams complete with cleaning and basic x-rays
  • 310 sq. ft. of insulation to make your house more energy efficient
  • 17 Gallons of paint including ladder, brushes and tape to increase your house's value
  • 100 sq. ft of carpet to add value to your home
  • 165 loads of laundry at a laundromat
  • 1,900 bars of soap
  • 10 adult winter jackets
  • 35 plain adult sweat shirts or sweat pants
  • 15 shows including the one-drink minimum at places like the 55 Bar, Smalls, Jazz Standard, or Jazz Gallery to support local jazz musicians in New York or other cities around the US
  • 13 pints of blood, processed and delivered to patients in need (Make a donation to the Red Cross)
  • 2 weeks of summer camp for a Boy Scout or Girl Scout
  • 10 one-year memberships for underprivileged families to local Boys or Girls Clubs for after-school care
  • 1 month of care for one foster child
  • 4 months of public transportation in the average metropolitan city
  • *And just so you know, you could be preventing numbers like this from going up:

    372: average number of homeless people who die per year in major cities in the US like Los Angeles

    372: deaths that take place every 2 months in the United States from preventable disease

    I hope to see you on the other side of Black Friday, one in which we decide to spend time with each other, giving of our time and our wealth of individual talents and resources in order to show the true meaning of caring. People, not the stuff they own, are what make this world a better place.