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Wednesday, Nov 21 2012 11:00 PM

Another sort of Thanksgiving message

By The Bakersfield Californian

This Thanksgiving, restrain yourself. No, not from eating; in fact, go back for thirds. Then at some point go out for a brisk walk, a game of touch football -- something. But whatever you do, whatever you eat, stay close to home, family and/or friends. Don't abandon the holiday and buy in to the aggressive encroachment of Black Friday into Thursday's day of thanksgiving.

We're not saying you should stay out of retail stores during this four-day weekend. On the contrary: Defending oneself from being jostled and trampled in a packed department store is an excellent way to firm up the muscles and shake the cobwebs loose from the previous day's high caloric intake and overabundant leisure. Hitting the mall is also good for the economy. A healthy kickoff to the four-week Christmas shopping season can mean the difference between profit and loss for many retailers and their suppliers. It can mean the difference between a paycheck earned and the unemployment line for many workers.

It's a funny truth: Shopping is good for America.

But it's not nearly as vital to our country as Thanksgiving -- or, more to the point, everything the holiday traditionally stands for: family, friends and reflective communion. Today, spend some time talking (and listening) to someone you don't see often enough, someone you're usually too busy or too rushed to make time for. In a small but not insignificant way, it helps fortify something we can't allow ourselves to let go of: that all-important sense of family and community.

The temptation to check out the Black Thursday sales will be strong for many people, but most of those deals will still be available Friday and beyond. That won't always be the case with friends and family.

The family dinner is a dying tradition in some corners of the country. Thanksgiving, more than any other day of the year, bucks that trend. One of the side benefits of committing one's family to the fellowship of friends is that it sets an example for children, toddlers to teens. Maintaining this important tradition today increases the chances that the tradition will be alive tomorrow.

So stick around after dinner and have a slice of pie. Watch some football, pull out the Pictionary game or get down on the floor with the toddlers and their blocks.

Are you a Thanksgiving orphan, too far in terms of years or distance to enjoy the day with family? Invite another Thanksgiving orphan or two to your home for a potluck feast. Or visit a retirement home, where many residents are in the same boat.

But don't give in to overenthusiastic retailers who seem evermore determined to carve into family time, bit by bit. Let's reclaim this national holiday by sending a message to the Wal-Marts of the world: Trying to lure in customers on Thanksgiving Day isn't worth the trouble.

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