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Monday Meditation: Going in The Hole

September 15, 2014



Harrisonburg, Virginia, has one of the worst designed shopping center parking and navigation arrangements ever.

My husband calls this shopping center (above) The Hole because it is kind of low lying (from Interstate 81, you can actually see the roof of part of the complex with stuff like air conditioning equipment, etc.). The problem is there are only three openings in and out of this great mecca, and the traffic to the parking spaces passes directly in front of all the stores. I can imagine some architect somewhere praising this design to developers/planners, citing the beauty of the design as shoppers will go by all these stores on their way to a buying haven. Yes?

Some of us do all we can to avoid The Hole especially on those heavy duty shopping days like the day after Thanksgiving. But on a recent Saturday I made the mistake of turning into The Hole before I realized it was Back to College Saturday. Thousands of students and their parents and their siblings were back in town for “move in weekend” at James Madison University, next door to The Hole. Cars were waiting out the wazoo to enter The Hole. Since I was stuck in traffic anyway, I poked my camera out my window and snapped away.


I find it interesting that outside shopping centers and revitalized boutique shopping in downtown areas are in, while indoor malls are out. Kind of. The Hole has the usual roster for a string of stores: Best Buy, Bed Bath and Beyond, Staples, Michael’s, Barnes & Noble, Home Depot, and Wal–Mart with restaurants like Ruby Tuesday, O’Charley’s, Paneras, Qdoba. In spite of the ridiculous traffic pattern, we go to The Hole 10 times for every visit to the local mall, (but that’s also because of Location! Location! and we no longer have adolescents and teens). There are not a lot of trendy clothing stores in The Hole, the best of which is Ross Dress for Less. I get my bargains there but to go to Aeropostale and Hollister (which I don’t), you gotta go to the mall. The mall has traditional parking areas spread around all sides of the shopping. Smarter.

However, as a metaphor for materialism and consumerism, The Hole wins hands down. Most of us do not do well in fighting materialism, and succumb at every turn, even when we’re careful. Shopping quickly leads to a literal hole—in your bank account and in your outlook, driven by the compulsion to acquire the next cool thing. It can lead to a hole in your morality: while most of us never shoplift or rob, we judge, compare ourselves to others, feel a need to acquire, and maybe even mentally put down others who “have not.”

A friend of mine recently went to Tyson’s Corner near Washington, D.C. on a shopping excursion with her daughters. She came back empty handed (except for one tiny arts and craft purchase), astounded at the prices and excess, as I have been similarly. Purses for $2000, refrigerators for $5000. I didn’t ask but wondered if she had actually been at Tyson’s Galleria which is described as “upscale” shopping, while Tyson’s Corner Center is a little less pricey. No one “needs” a $2000 purse, do they? But, do I need eight pair of slacks? Twenty tops? Ten pairs of shoes? Three winter coats?

We are all sucked into The Hole.

Lord, forgive us our excesses, as we drive round and round, ever seeking to be more satisfied, to fill up the empty places. Isaiah speaks to our parched places, and of a spring of water which never fails:

The Lord will guide you continually,
    and satisfy your needs in parched places,
    and make your bones strong;
and you shall be like a watered garden,
    like a spring of water,
    whose waters never fail. (Isaiah 58:11)

Today let me seek the things that truly satisfy.


What things tempt you? How do you deal with the urge to acquire more and more?


For more on Living More With Less, check out Third Way website here.


From → Faith, Family Life

  1. This is an unusual topic for you and I can sense your exasperation with consumism. I like how you made an extended metaphor of The Hole (Forgive me, I’ll always be an English prof!) ending up with something beautiful – Isaiah 58:11, a verse underlined in my Bible.

    I don’t like shopping except if my daughter Crista (an inveterate shopper) is with me or my friend Colleen. Otherwise, I go to the Town Center when I must, going right in and right out purchasing what I need. My son-in-law says I shop like a man – ha! You remind me, I really should go shopping. My lingerie looks woebegone, and I keep wearing the same summer tops and shorts year in and year out. I project a “fancy girl” persona, but truthfully I’m too frugal to take it to extreme.

    • So you shop like a man. I would say my husband shops like some women. So I don’t know if that is a blessing, or sometimes a curse. Glad you enjoyed seeing one of your favorite verses (but I’m not sure why you felt this is an unusual topic for me). A meditation? Or the consumerism angle. No need to respond, just musing here. There has been a better than usual number of views/visitors. Thanks for all your loyalty, Marian.

  2. Athanasia permalink

    Marian, I have actually been patching, not just mending, favorite pairs of underthings as I dislike shopping so much. They stopped carrying what I like so I can’t even order on line.

  3. I’ve lived in Harrisonburg for four years and only entered The Hole one time that I recall. I didn’t even know it was called The Hole. 🙂 But thanks for taking me to Isaiah 58. I noticed the promise to make my bones strong this time. Maybe it’s because I have a bit of back ache after spending a week with grandchildren! I’m claiming the promise.

    • That is amazing that you’ve only been to that shopping center once or so–of course you are at a place in life when, as Al Keim once told me, the mission is to get rid of things, not acquire. How great to have a week with the grandchildren–it looked like fun. Hoping we can do that before too many years.

  4. Athanasia permalink

    Melodie, there’s a very nice mall like that on the NE side of Milwaukee, actually in Bay Shore. In the 70’s and 80’s is was upscale stores and we just used to go there to wander and look when visiting an aunt and uncle (one of father’s brothers) who lived nearby. Now the whole thing was redone into the drive through type you mention and it is like driving through a small compact city center with nothing but fancy (mostly chain) stores. Parking actually was not bad as there were parking structures, but we parked on the street fairly close to the Barnes and Noble.

    We were in town for a double wedding shower and for a baby shower (all family), 9 of us women, my mother and I sat in the BN cafe and read while the others disbursed for a quick shopping trip before heading home. This was not any obvious high traffic weekend though. Oh and no one bought much…it was just like in our youth, lots of looking and not much buying.

  5. Athanasia permalink

    Things that tempt me are books and kitchen utensils/kitchen ware. The books part is easy since I buy books for a living so I am constantly handling new books (don’t they just feel and smell wonderful!) . I do buy some books, especially children’s books with beautiful illustrations, but for most of my reading I use the library.

    I like kitchen stuff that works well and when I am in a baking/cooking mood I do not just want 1 set of measuring spoons and one cutting board…I have 5 sets of spoons and 9 cutting boards (dishwasher washable) for example, those glass Pyrex nesting mixing bowls? I have 2 sets. 3 jelly roll pans…the list is endless. But it does fit all very nicely into my kitchen and pantry…and I am a just about 100% cook from scratch person so I do make well use of everything I have. I have been collecting for years, things that were handed down to me by Grandmothers, other relatives, my mother. Plus people that know me well tend to give me their unwanted items…why I have 7 colanders/strainers…but they all fit inside one another in one stack! Did you know that you can buy extra mixing bowls for a Kitchenaid mixer? Yes! My daughters did and gave me one about 6 years ago for Christmas…mixing multiple batters, no waiting…they gave me a 2nd paddle, too.

    Well back to your question, we basically acquire very little in our normal day to day…DIY in most things. Clothes are simple. I have yet to ever feel the need to redecorate.

    • I understand the temptation for kitchen ware. It is always fun to look and find something new and gadgety, or pretty. I don’t know how many measuring spoons I have but my favorites are the magnety ones. I’ve very impressed with your almost 100% cook from scratch habit. I also admire that you don’t feel the need to redecorate. I don’t do that as often as some but I definitely feel the urge when things get dingy and not fresh looking.. Thanks for all your reflections. Do you have a blog somewhere??

      • Athanasia permalink

        Hmmm, magnety measuing spoons…now I don’t have those!

        I look at the things I have that have been handmade by those before me and handed down and I see no attraction to anything sold in the store nowadays.

  6. Melodie, you should see the malls here in Raleigh and Cary NC! It is hard to imagine how much money is spent there daily! We shop mostly at a couple of local thrift stores and avoid the malls as possible.

    Things that tempt me are books, fabric and paper. I have a tea mug given to me by a dear friend who died 7 years ago. It says, “The one who dies with the most fabric wins!” No fair! She died a left me quite a bit of fabric!

  7. My daughter Doreen has a fetish for fabric–I’d heard/seen that slogan before. Books I understand, but what is tempting about paper? Pretty stuff, scrapbook kinds?

    I remember when a niece worked at Belk here in the H’burg mall and she just marveled at women coming in and thinking nothing of dropping $500 and much more on a shopping spree. I think I have frugal followers here. 🙂 Makes sense!

  8. donaldorc permalink

    “The Hole.” I like it. I call it our “Temple of Consumerism.” In 1,000 years archeologists will point to these centers as places where our civilization spent most of its time and devotion. “They freely bring their offerings, and sacrifice their hard-earned wages to give devotion to their god.”

    • Don, you win the “best comment here” prize. Shirley Showalter wins the prize for only having gone there (that she can remember) once in 4 years (I count Panera’s and O’Charley’s as being in “The Hole,” so maybe Shirley wasn’t counting those [gotta have my broccoli soup at Panera’s.]) But I digress, yes, Temple of Consumerism is a good alternative label. Thanks for chiming in.

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