Happy what? What’s “happy” about nothing? Well, let me give this a try…

About a week ago, I had a two-hour conversation with Mary Lynn, one of my dearest friends in all the world. You might remember that Mary Lynn inspired last month’s Green Apple Slaw. The fact is, she and I go back over 20 years, first as colleagues at a major university and then as inseparable BFFs. Life, however, keeps moving, and over the years we’ve been challenged by physical distance and changing careers. Our actual face-to-face visits are down to about two a year—and there have been years when we completely went without anything but virtual hugs and kisses.

So a two-hour phone call or a carefully planned weekend visit, for instance, is what we give each other instead of elaborate gifts and cards at the holidays. Sure we send some little homemade goodies, favorite poems and handmade decorations across the miles, but what we treasure most aren’t things; the gifts we give each other are less tangible: time, attention, love and lots of moments of laughter.

It was during this recent conversation that she mentioned a notation on her appointment calendar–the day after Thanksgiving was officially designated “Buy Nothing Day”. I thought that was just wonderful—an authorized day giving everyone permission to turn their backs on high-pressured sales and marketing in order to focus on less tangible but more important options. If you are a longtime reader of GGMW, you know how I feel about the frenzy of Black Friday and why I never shop—online or on site—the day after Thanksgiving.

To help fill you in on this new holiday concept, here’s a little bit of content from Wikipedia that explains the history of Buy Nothing Day

The first Buy Nothing Day was organized in Canada in September 1992 “as a day for society to examine the issue of over-consumption.” In 1997, it was moved to the Friday after American Thanksgiving, also called “Black Friday”, which is one of the ten busiest shopping days in the United States. In 2000, some advertisements by Adbusters promoting Buy Nothing Day were denied advertising time by almost all major television networks except for CNN. Soon, campaigns started appearing in the United States, the United Kingdom, Israel, Austria, Germany, New Zealand, Japan, the Netherlands, France, Norway and Sweden. Participation now includes more than 65 nations.

In my mind, we need a “buy nothing day” more than ever. What do you think? And, what would you do with nothing to buy and nowhere to go and all the time in the world to do something else?

Well, you could settle in with family and friends to create amazing leftovers from that monster dinner the day before. You could actually read a book. You could talk on the phone or go to tea with your BFF. Actually, there’s probably not time enough to explore all the things you could do on Buy Nothing Day–things that had not one thing to do with major purchases of any kind.

If you are local to southeastern Illinois, let me suggest something specific—just to get you started…something straight from the heart…lands….

In my neck of the woods (there’s a subtle pun here… wait for it), we have a wonderful environmental organization called Heartlands Conservancy. I have written about them before and suggested ways you could support them, especially if you live in the regions where they do all their good works. But being a member of Heartlands is more than just giving your donations and or volunteering your time; it’s also about having fun! Which brings me to Heartlands Conservancy’s annual Jingle Hike Challenge, an event running from Thanksgiving Day to New Year’s Day. Here’s the sweet deal you can’t pass up, especially since there is nothing to buy:

Heartlands is tying jingle bells and tags to 12 trees located in parks throughout the Metro East area:

  • Gordon Moore Park (North of Rt. 111) – 4550 College Ave.Alton, IL 62002
  • Gardens at SIUE – 6 Arboretum Ln., Edwardsville, IL
  • Willoughby Farms – 631 Willoughby Ln., Collinsville, IL
  • Cahokia Mounds – 30 Ramey St., Collinsville, IL
  • New Baden – 906 E Illinois St, New Baden, IL 62265
  • Storck Woods – 7200 Half Acre Rd., Nashville, IL 62263
  • Stemler Cave Woods Nature Preserve- 2200 Stemler Road, Columbia, IL
  • Lakeview Park – 1400 Lakeview Drive, Waterloo, IL 62298
  • Red Bud City Hall Park – 200 E Market St., Red Bud, IL
  • Belleville Bicentennial Park – 4811 Belleville Crossing , Belleville, IL 62220
  • Mascoutah Scheve Park – 901 N 6th St., Mascoutah, IL
  • Kingsbury Park District Nature Preserve – 1373 Iron Gate Trail, Greenville, IL

It’s your job to find the trees, take a photo and submit it to Heartlands social media accounts or through their email—the specific details are on their website. If you find six or more, you will be entered for the grand prize – a Felt Verza Cafe 24 Adult Bicycle from the Alpine Shop. So, yes, Virginia, there still is a Santa Claus, even if you buy nothing. A bonus entry will be awarded to each participant who can correctly name the type of tree to which the bell is tied. (Common name is acceptable) There is no cost to participate, thanks to their sponsor Davey Resource Group!

My point in suggesting the Jingle Bell Hike Challenge is that there while there is nothing to buy there is everything to gain—you’ll get exercise, family time, a brush with nature, fresh air, education and discovery, just being together away from the rest of the world. The only things you will miss are the mall crowds, the parking-lot craziness and the over-extended credit card bill come January 2 or thereabouts.

Not from here? Well think outside that foil-wrapped box a little—you’ll figure it out. Somewhere there is a “challenge” waiting for you. What are you truly thankful for? What can’t you simply live without—like family, friends, pets and nature? What you really need probably costs very little but is more priceless than words can say. It’s the bounty you already have…by buying nothing.