I'm Happy When I'm Purchasing Things

Black Friday at the Mall of America: Wish you were here. Wait a minute, you are here.

There's Teri Wallace, a self-described "introvert" and education researcher from Owatonna who sits in the Starbucks reading A Million Little Pieces--the swaggering memoir of a raging drug abuser--while waiting for her daughter and watching the parade of families: sippy cup-strewn strollers, blank-faced husbands, packs of wired teenage girls, folks who look like they just climbed down from a deer stand or came straight from Minicon, and various other shop-shocked faces.

But there is no one quite like the Sloneker-Beseman-Cunningham clan, who, despite their plans to shop until well past midnight, temper their capitalistic urges with some good old-fashioned socialism.

"People are too intense on this day, so we make sure we do one random act of kindness. We're the happy people," says Andrea Sloneker. "Like today, at Marshall Field's, these women were frantically looking for bracelets, and we helped search for them.

"One year we helped clean up the glove department at Kohl's and organized it all for them, so those people could get off work and get home," says Lavon Beseman.

"One year at the hotel, we all did synchronized swimming in the pool afterwards. That was quite a sight," says Lee Sloneker. "When we'd go back to the hotel, we'd usually have a van just packed full. And you know those luggage carts they have? We'd have to take three of them. They'd be stacked way high, all the way to the top, and people would just be looking at us like, 'Who are these people? What are they doing?'"

Jim Walsh can be reached at 612.372.3775 orjwalsh@citypages.com.

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