So my son’s first birthday is coming up, and so far I have two birthday parties planned: one Star Wars themed party with friends, and a dinosaur themed party with family. At each party, I’ve asked friends and family members to bring their presence and not presents, as our family is trying to go the more minimalist route when it comes to gifts,.
But when I saw the promotion for Build A Bear’s “Pay-Your-Age Day,” admittedly, I was a bit intrigued. My son has about a metric half ton of stuffed animals already, but I thought it would be fun to bring him to the Workshop to choose his very own stuffed animal friend to grow up with.
I had gotten the idea in my head to bring him along with me to the Mall that day to “choose his starter” from the Pokemon they have available at the store. It was going to be a cute, nerdy little prelude to his first birthday, and we’d always have the Build-A-Pokemon to remember it by. I don’t know who I was more excited for, honestly, but that day I packed my son into our little car and made our way to the Mall, pumped for the day’s events.
That is, until I arrived at my local mall and saw the Panda-Monium (sorry not sorry) that was Build-A-Bear Workshops Pay Your Age Day.
In hindsight, I should have seen it coming. After all, most of these bears and other creatures normally retail for over $30, so of course parents would jump at the chance to get them for under $10.
In my delusional optimism, I had imagined that we would arrive at the Mall 15 minutes before it opened and there might be a line of 5-10 families at most ahead of us, but we’d all be in and out of there within an hour, tops.
No. The line circled the entire mall. The whole thing. A socially anxious person’s nightmare.
Needless to say, we left empty-handed. But being there really put something into perspective for me.
News reports everywhere were comparing the craziness that was this promotion to the clamor of Black Friday, a tradition that I personally have never and will never partake in. As neat of an idea as it was, walking through the automatic doors to this horde of mentally drained parents and their antsy offspring kind of opened my eyes to how needless and damaging our materialistic culture can be.
Luke 12:15 warns us to, “Be aware of covetousness,” and reminds us that our lives do not consist of the possessions we, well, possess. Yes, it’s true that toys to some extent are good for kids, in that they can help them to learn through their imagination, exercise sharing skills, and ultimately they can make for nice mementos of childhood when they are grown. You might even say that it’s good to “upgrade” a child’s inventory of toys every once in a while to accommodate their growing interests, and always stimulate their imagination and learning process.
However, television, radio, and social media ads create this false sense of urgency in their listeners, leading us to believe that we need their product, otherwise we won’t fit in, or we’ll be missing out. But the reality is, there’s just more to life than accumulating those material possessions companies spend so many millions of advertising dollars on that will inevitably fizzle out with the next trend.
This isn’t to say that there’s anything wrong with upgrading your phone if yours truly isn’t working, or going out to get a new outfit for a special occasion, or even getting hyped about the release of the next game in your favorite franchise. But if you find yourself planning an entire day or two around being one of the first to purchase a certain material item on a regular basis, maybe it would be good to reevaluate your priorities.
Matthew 6:19-21 says, “Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust doth corrupt, and where thieves break through and steal. But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt, and where thieves do not break through nor steal. For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.” In a culture of Amazon Prime, subscriptions to “swag boxes,” etc, it’s easier than ever to get addicted to buying and accumulating a lot of frankly useless things. But at the end of the day, we’re not taking any of that with us when we leave this Earth, and when we have our hearts constantly set on buying every item on our wish list, we leave less room in our hearts for God.
Again, this isn’t to say that it’s necessarily the worst thing to treat yourself once in a while, and it’s especially not the worst thing to get gifts for your family and friends. Just as long as you can see that your life will not, in fact, be meaningless without the latest console, that’s all.
So maybe my son didn’t leave with his starter Pokemon that day, but we did get a chance to get out of the house, and I like to think I’ve begun to instill in him the idea that there is more to life than stuffed animals, even if they are marked down over 90 percent.