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Black Friday

The Guideposts editor-in-chief shares how you can support the military during the holidays.

Happy Black Friday, everyone.

Millie and I were up and out on our usual early morning walk today when I was surprised to see throngs of people on the typically deserted sidewalks of our neighborhood. 

It took my pre-caffeinated brain a few seconds to process the fact that this was Black Friday, and consumers were flocking to nearby stores (I live around the corner from Macy’s, JCPenney and a bevy of other name-brand outlets at Herald Square) getting a jump on their holiday shopping.  

The frenzy of this annual spending stampede has always puzzled me, though as someone who usually dallies deep into December before he even thinks about a Christmas list, I am in no position to judge.

Still, watching all these figures moving urgently in the pre-dawn darkness was a bit disconcerting, though for Millie it was an opportunity to assume the role as official greeter for Black Friday in New York, enjoying all the attention from passersby who were not in such a rush that they could resist saying hello to an extremely sociable Golden Retriever.

The best encounter, though, was with a trio of young sailors from a Navy ship docked on the Hudson. “Boy, I miss my dog!” said one, lowering himself on his haunches to give my great big dog a great big hug.

“You guys are brave to face these crowds,” I said. 

“It might be the only chance we get to shop,” one of the other sailors explained.

That comment has stayed with me all morning. Tens of thousands of U.S. service personnel are stationed overseas this holiday season, as they have been for the last eight years of war, many of them in combat zones. I am certainly not the first to urge that we keep them foremost in our thoughts and prayers. Yet it can’t be said often enough. Mostly they are young and away from their families for the first time. 

My favorite thing I saw on television yesterday (since all my NFL teams lost) was a CNN report on a raucous Thanksgiving Day parade in Afghanistan put on by some soldiers who imitated the annual Macy’s extravaganza by tricking out their humvees and tanks with Thanksgiving decorations.

I got a kick out of the jeep that had big cardboard turkey wings affixed to its doors and a couple of feather dusters lashed in back for a tail. The soldiers looked like they were having a ball but you just knew they were missing their homes in a way most of us have been blessed enough not to have ever experienced.

So let me add my voice to the chorus remembering the tough job our military performs. Every year GUIDEPOSTS distributes over 600,000 magazines free to service men and women and their families, along with other faith-based inspirational material and copies of our annual devotional book, Daily Guideposts

Most importantly, perhaps, we provide literature to Walter Reed and other military hospitals as well as recently sending additional materials to chaplains at Fort Hood, scene of last month’s shocking attack.

You can support our efforts by visiting Guidepostsfoundation.org or OurPrayer.org. We need your help. And by the way, if you’re not up to battling those shopping hordes, drop by shopguideposts.com for great inspirational gifts. It’s definitely not too late to order Daily Guideposts 2010 and our special holiday keepsake edition, The Joys of Christmas 2009. Who needs those crowds anyway?   

Edward Grinnan is Editor-in-Chief and Vice President of GUIDEPOSTS Publications.

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