Our economy is bleeding. Together, we are wounded and fearing the unthinkable: an unfixable break in the comfort of our society and economy. To be honest, I haven’t personally felt the economic dip. I feel privileged to have missed the painful punch, but slightly ashamed that I’ve been slumping along oblivious to the plight of others. Seeing it on the news and hearing about it in conversations just isn’t the same as witnessing or experiencing it first-hand.
Westminster Mall was, at one time, a bustling metropolis of retail, a frenzy of holiday bustle, where patrons lugged around bags and boxes of treasured finds during the holiday season. Anchor department stores flanked by wildly popular specialty shops that made hefty fortunes for small business owners and franchise managers alike. All that was before the demise of a once-leading retail mecca.
Today, Westminster Mall is an eerily still shell of a long-ago retail success. Entire wings, amounting to hundreds of thousands of square feet of commercial real estate, are dimly lit and the heat is set very low. Store fronts are “decorated” with empty chairs. Walls are empty, corridors echo silence, and neon signs flicker on their way to darkness. The few chambers that do boast business operations offer knock-off brands and flimsy trinkets.
This photo shows a storefront of a store advertising children’s birthday parties, but the horrific moving statue to the left is enough to send Alfred Hitchcock into a nightmare. The most disturbing element of this retail corpse is the echo of Christmas music piped through the building. I fully expected to be assaulted by an unseen spirit haunting the hallways.
As with all things, there is a birth, a life, and a death. This mall has a rapidly decreasing heartbeat, nearing the flat line. I suddenly felt the economic depression as I walked around. It’s lonely, cold, and hopeless.
Walking through this empty place caused me to reflect on what I am thankful for and the things I most fear.
I am thankful for my economic success; I have a job! What a blessing in this country where 10% of our population is unemployed. I get to work with outstanding people on projects that I enjoy and allow me to positively impact the lives of others. I’m thankful for my vitality, family, and friends. I’m thankful that my life isn’t as empty as this dying mall. I’m thankful that I have a warm community with which to share my walk through life.
I fear the deafening echo of emptiness and loneliness. While it seems unlikely, it’s this time of year when one’s relationships — or lack thereof — are amplified. What was once lively can be rendered hallow with a few changes in environment and this is possible in economics and relationships alike.
The most unsettling part of this situation is that outside these walls are homeless people for whom this throw-away mall would seem like a mansion of warmth, comfort, and safety from the bitter Colorado winter. I estimate that hundreds of freezing, hungry, lonely, hopeless young and old people on the city streets tonight would appreciate this mall’s shell, turning it from a desolate cavern to a home for the forgotten.
It’s one idea. Innovation and generosity might be the fuel of profit and philanthropy, but my guess is that this place is ruled by greed and the paralysis of yesterday’s formula for success.