Day of rest is tradition needing to be reclaimed

Whatever happened to a day of rest? I’m old enough to remember when stuff was closed on Sundays and holidays. You spent time with family and friends rather than working or running errands as we do today.

It’s really only recently that this change has taken place. Perhaps it is because we used to do more physical work and therefore needed to take a break from labor. It could be due to the increasing secularization of our society in which not everyone observes a Sabbath.

In any case, I think we can see the effect on us as individuals and on our culture as a whole. Everyone seems to be overtaxed with activities yet apparently unable to divest ourselves from all these obligations. The idea of taking part of a day — much less a whole day — for rest seems unthinkable.

This kind of pace is not sustainable in the long run. Eventually we will get run down, like a battery. We simply must commit to recharging ourselves on a regular basis. Without this, we could end up with an emotional malaise or even some sort of physical illness.

Not everyone may need to refresh themselves in the same way. Some may like time with friends to be able to have meaningful discussions, or just to laugh. Others might prefer to unwind with a solitary walk in nature.

I would suggest we all need these things at various times in our lives; it is a matter of balance to figure out what would be most helpful to us in a particular situation. Whatever we decide is best for us at a given time, we need to commit being fully present in that moment.

What does that mean exactly? For one, not checking your phone. For another, paying attention to what is happening around you. Truly see the colors of the fall leaves. Really listen to what the other person is saying. Don’t be mentally composing your to do list.

Introduce the people in your life to the concept that you will not always be available 24/7. Explain that while it might be a temporary frustration to them when they’re trying to get a hold of you, the reverse will also be true — when you are with them, they will have your undivided attention.

Reinstating a day of rest can also help keep our lives from spinning out of control. I am thankful I don’t have to work on Sundays or holidays, and therefore I try not to do things that would cause someone else to have to work on those days. If no one went shopping on Thanksgiving Day, then no one would have to work at a retail job instead of being able to enjoy the holiday with family.

But what do we do? I can imagine some asking this question. You don’t actually have to do anything; just be. (For the record, this is coming from someone who is always active. I once had a friend tell me I relax by getting stuff done.)

If this advice sounds too weird, then I suggest you try to remember a simpler time in your life. Think of what was different then, and try to emulate that. Another tactic is to limit the amount of time you will allow yourself for a task and decide you simply must get it done in that time frame.

Protect your day of rest. You’ll have to. People might think you’re selfish with your time, or that you’re trying to re-enact a scene from the Little House on the Prairie books. But once they see how it works for you, then they may want to get in on the action (so to speak).

Others may wonder how you are able to get through life at an even, measured pace. They may ask how you always seem to have time for the important things and how you manage to say no to time wasters. Then once they are on board, their friends will ask them these things, and so on. We can create a ripple effect in the lives of those around us if we can dare to be different.

Imagine if you had a new gizmo that rocked your world; you’d want to tell everyone so they could get one too. But this is an idea instead of a product — even better, as you don’t have to spend any money. It is both free, and freeing emotionally.

Stephanie Haines is a writer from Greenfield who now lives in Bloomington. She can be contacted through her website,