Cathedrals of Compassion/Consumption

At this time of year I enjoy walking around the city in the winter cold, wrapped up and desperately trying to stay out of the busy shops that have huge queues of people seeking to buy something for their friends or family. I think its partly the security I feel because I’m warm and comfortable in my own life and although I’m not ‘rich’, I can afford to feed my wife and myself, I have somewhere to lay my head, I can heat myself if I get cold and I have faith.

These moments as I pass others in the busy corridors of consumption I examine the difference and can’t help but compare myself to fellow shoppers. Patience is currency at this time of year where you find yourself in a long queue in a shop and its a test of patience to see who can last the longest in the long lines. I feel sometimes that the whole thing is madness. I mean its great to buy things for your loved ones and its also great to receive gifts from others, but its insane the level to which people go to make you come into their ‘Cathedral of Consumption’ to spend your money.

As I passed a busy coffee shop i noticed the female barista spraying fake snow on the windows of a well known coffee house. Underneath her was a homeless man asking for money to buy some food. He has no interest in gingerbread lattes, mint choco mochas and hot fudge cappuccinos. He only needs to fill his stomach so he won’t freeze through the night. As I stand I count around 10 people being served their ‘gourmet coffee’, a total of £25.00 spent on coffee and milk in the 5 minutes as the homeless guy receives nothing. I feel hypocritical here because I also walked past giving the man nothing but a smile as I passed because I had no ‘spare change’, however this stops here as I’ve decided to make a decision to be more generous as the season rolls towards Christmas.

Spending predictions for Christmas 2009

– Christmas sales forecast to hit £44.7 billion, compared to £43.9 billion in 2008, a year-on-year increase of £832 million
– Consumer confidence has improved from unprecedented depths of -18% last summer to 5% now and retail confidence has risen from -46 in December 08 to -1 currently
– Industry ‘cautiously optimistic’ following ‘Black Christmas’ of 2008, when sales fell £-27 million, resulting in 20 major retailers going into administration, the loss of 40,000 jobs and shop voids rising to 10%
– Christmas retail sales expected to represent 18.5% of total retail sales for 2009
– Welcome boost could result in up to 4,500 new jobs by January
– Online spending to reach £8.9 billion this Christmas, representing 20p in every £1 spent – equivalent to 20% of ALL UK sales and a 24% increase on previous year

taken from

This is not saying that you shouldn’t spend money at Christmas and buy people presents – its just really about being aware of what it around us at this time of year, as we enjoy that latte can we not treat the guy outside the coffee shop to one as well. That could be the only present he gets this year and you could be the only person he shares it with.   I know that the season brings all these problems to the surface for me and I don’t know how many nights I close the curtains on the cold, wet world and say to my wife as my mother used to say to me, “I’m glad I’m not homeless on a night like this”.