With the holiday season in full swing, I see an unusually vocal opposition this year to the decision by many businesses to open their doors during the “family time” of the holidays. This is an unfortunate stance taken by those who are so fortunate that they are unable to see the other side of the coin.
American holidays are heavily centered on family, food and relaxing down-time. We pride ourselves on our tradition of taking time off, gathering in big family get-togethers, cooking magnificent meals and sharing the day with football and pies of many varieties. What we often fail to see, however, is that this is not how a great multitude of Americans spend the holidays. 21st century America is populated with record numbers of single parents, folks with little or no immediate family, and families and individuals who are living paycheck to paycheck and working hard for every dollar they earn. For these workers, the opportunity to earn wages on any day is a blessing. If a company offers holiday pay plus overtime for working during the holiday, well that’s even better. For them, the opportunity to work, provide services to customers and earn the money that keeps food on their table is a welcome gift. Although some may feel strongly that it is just “wrong” for a business to be open on a holiday, who are they to so vocally decry the right of an individual to provide for themselves and their family?
From another perspective, many holiday workers are folks who simply have nothing better to do. Maybe they have no immediate family. Perhaps they have simply made the decision not to travel to see family this year. Or they are single parents whose children are with the other parent for the holiday. There are a multitude of legitimate reasons why people voluntarily choose to accept holiday working hours if they are so offered.
At some point, we as a society are going to have to accept the fact that America has changed. Pining for the traditions of old will not bring those traditions back. Many young folks do not return home for holidays and welcome the hours of wage-earning that are offered by their employers. Additionally, the economy is in trouble. People are hungry. Bills must be paid. And, frankly, spending money to travel, buy tons of food or host a big gathering is simply not in the cards for those who need every dollar they earn just to survive.
In short, the next time you feel compelled to rage against businesses who open their doors on a holiday with the assistance of voluntary staff, take a moment to look around, be thankful for what you have, and consider that you are blessed in a way that those who choose to work on a holiday may not be.