By Kaiser Shaffer, Web Editor

Black Friday. Ah, yes.

In olden days it was with great joy that store clerks would look over a fine day of sales and be able to break out the black ink for their ledgers. However, the olden days are gone, and now Black Friday makes me think of death. I think it just comes with the name (Black Plague, anyone?).

Growing up, Black Friday always had a little bit of an allure. It was the survival of the strongest and the fittest in a rush to get 50 or even 80 percent off the latest and greatest deluxe 4-slot toaster. My friends would return, shell-shocked and weary, to tell fantastic stories of camping outside of a Best Buy or scoping out a sweet deal on some huge TV from the local Target. But my parents were never into that sort of thing, and I have learned to understand why.

It’s a consumerist worldview taken to its worst conclusion. Big box retailers wielded their marketing strength to convince people that they need to act as quickly as humanly possible or else they are missing out. The fervor that the Black Friday shoppers can whip themselves into over cheap merchandise is a little maddening. (Look, honey, saving that money is not going to save you. Only Jesus can do that.)

This year, Internet retailer extraordinaire Amazon is starting its Black Friday deals a week in advance. Select “Lightning Deals” will be featured every single day in an attempt to get people to stay glued to Amazon’s feed of the latest and greatest. Amazon wields the muscle to extend and expand the Black Friday name into its own season. With retailers feeling the pinch from online sales, they could follow the lead. But there is hope that the Black Friday of the future may not be as extreme.

One retailer, REI Co-op, famous for its outdoor gear, is taking a slightly different approach to this year’s Black Friday. Instead of forcing long hours for employees and facing swarms of people, they are doing the opposite. REI is closing their stores on November 27, giving employees paid time off and launching a social media campaign to persuade their loyal customers to spend the day with family outdoors.

Maybe we have become far too eager to leave the family behind in search of meaningless items.

Several other stores joining in the cause, such as Nordstrom, H&M and GameStop. Are consumers finally fed up with the Black Friday frenzy? If the trend that REI and like-minded retailers are putting forth continues, we could eventually live in a future where stores close down, life becomes a little slower and there is time to spend with our families.

Honestly, it is the true spirit of Thanksgiving. Maybe we have become far too eager to leave the family behind in search of meaningless items. And while our broken family relationships can cause us to seek contentment elsewhere, it doesn’t have to be like this. If we support the cause of reducing the cultural impact of Black Friday by not joining the masses, we can use the free time to feel thankful and invest in the relationships that really matter.

The deluxe 4-slot toaster just isn’t one of them.