I went shopping once on Black Friday. Once was enough. I hear people say it takes patience to get a good deal, and that patience is a virtue. I don’t’ know about that. Tell me how getting up (or maybe never going to sleep in the first place) at 2:00 a.m. to stand in line on a cold concrete sidewalk outside a store for hours just to save a few bucks is virtuous? Especially when there are people who will trample, tackle, and even shoot a fellow shopper who gets between them and a good deal. If virtue is defined as moral excellence, I think we’ve missed the mark where patience is concerned when people start physically hurting each other over the last Tickle-Me-Elmo. Maybe we should call it Black & Blue Friday.

When I was in my early twenties and fresh out of college with a degree in journalism, I had a tough time making a living as a writer, and this was way before my days of grad school and becoming a therapist. I had bills to pay, so I ended up where any responsible college graduate would. The mall. I landed a job as a department manager for a large, well-known retail store and spent the next few years taking a lot of guff from grouchy people who apparently hadn’t heard about patience being a virtue. I could blog 101 ways that people are unbelievably mean and nasty to the sales clerks who really are trying to help them, but it would bore you. I can sum it up like this: working retail was an experience I will never forget. I learned a lot from that experience.

I think life is one big learning experience, and if we can take something positive away from even the seemingly glaring negative events or seasons, then we are learning to practice hope: I have a job. I get stronger every time I try. The pain won’t last forever. It’s never too late to forgive. I can wait. Love never gives up.

You can learn to live in a state of hope. Just as we learn a new skill by practicing it over and over until we become adept at it, so we learn hope through repetition. You find the positive, you focus on it, you believe in it, you move forward in it. Repeat those four steps until it becomes second nature.

Hope whispers, be patient.

People who move through life with an attitude of hope are much less stressed. Think about it; if you have an expectation of something, whether it is in your head or your heart, if you are focusing on the positive, believing something good is going to happen, then you are moving forward in hope, and even if it doesn’t happen, you have only disappointment to deal with. On the other hand, if you are focusing on all the reasons why it might not happen, you are moving forward in fear and doubt, and in that case if it  doesn’t happen, you not only have disappointment to deal with, but now you also have anxiety and depression that have taken root in your life. Hope creates resilience against depression and anxiety. Learning takes time. Be patient with yourself.

Give a man some hope and he will get through a crisis. Teach a man to hope and he will get through a lifetime of crises.

You losing out on the last sale-priced Blu-Ray player is not a crisis. You losing sleep over it could become one.

While patience and shopping may collide, resulting in a cataclysmic event, patience and hope can actually stroll through the mall hand in hand, and maybe even enjoy the experience. Black Friday, Pink Tuesday, Blue Sunday… whenever you go out to do your holiday shopping, be patient with the sales staff, it’s a tough gig to work during the holidays. And would you do one thing for me? If you try on any clothes that don’t make their way into your shopping cart, please hang them back on the rack instead of wadding them in a ball on the dressing room floor. Trust me when I tell you that with that one simple act, you will spread some serious holiday cheer, and perhaps even give a sales associate some hope. Isn’t that what the season is really all about?

Have a Black Friday or other holiday shopping experience you want to share here?