As it turned out, this had all of the makings of A Very Good Thing, since we were also near the spot where a much-anticipated natural foods market—after more than a year of starts, stops and promises—had opened the week I was
in New York.
So it was odd that despite an impressive grand opening banner, there were hardly any cars out front and no
lights on inside.
Being the investigative reporter that I am, it was decided that I should be the one to see what was up.
It didn’t take long to figure out, especially when I read the hours of operation sign next to the door.
You see, it turns out that this new kid on the block is open every day of the week—except Sunday.
It was Sunday.
But what I found most interesting was my reaction.
I wasn’t angry or annoyed. In fact, I was barely disappointed.
Nope. More than anything, I was happy.
I think my gut went this way because those locked doors instantly made me feel that a bit of sanity has re-entered our 24/7 world, at least in a few places. Here, right where I was standing, employees are guaranteed one day of rest from work every single week, however they define that, and however they choose to use those hours.
Most of us know about a couple of mega-stores that are already closed on Sunday.
There’s Chick-fil-A, founded by a devout Southern Baptist more than 65 years ago, and now a major American fast-food chain, with about 1,500 locations in 39 states. According to its web site, all of its restaurants shut their doors on the last day of the week so that employees can rest and if they choose, attend worship services. It’s the same for Hobby Lobby, an arts and crafts chain with about 500 stores in 41 states.
Sadly, both of these companies are also virulently anti-gay, making it unfortunate that they also have a policy that I
like a lot.
So, folks should also know that while I endorse the idea of closing on Sunday, this doesn’t mean that everyone should be pressured into going to church (or a synagogue or mosque) that day, and/or spending hours in prayer.
If that’s what you want to do, it’s perfectly fine. But for me, this time should be what some call a stop day: gifting yourself with one day a week to literally cease your labors—to slow down, relax and rewind, and do whatever is best for you. Say you work at a desk all week. If this is the scenario, Sundays might be the perfect time to take a long walk. If you love to cook but can’t whip up an ingredient laden dinner because you’re too tired on a weekday night, this is also the chance to do that.
For those under 30 years old, here’s a shocker: closing on Sunday used to be the norm rather than the exception.
Of course, hospitals were open, and there was always a phone operator on duty if law enforcement was needed. But pretty much every other enterprise, including small businesses, supermarkets, gas stations and department stores, took the entire day off. When I was a little girl, you couldn’t even buy milk.
Believe it or not, this wasn’t a big deal.
That’s because this cease-your-labor day had been going on in Western culture, primarily on Sundays, for--hold on to your hats--nearly 2,000 years.
And guess what? Because everyone knew that this how the end of the week rolled, people planned appropriately, and no one got their panties in a twist.
It shouldn’t surprise anyone that at least one medical professional has come on board with bringing back the tradition.
In fact, former ER doc Matthew Sleeth has even written a book (24/6: A Prescription for a Healthier, Happier Life) about the benefits of taking Sunday off—and the awfulness that so often happens when one doesn’t.
According to Sleeth, the United States is the most depressed country in the world, with about one in 10 of us being treated at any given time for clinical depression. On a parallel track, Americans tend to work many more hours than any other country on the planet. Even Japan comes in at number two.
What does any of this have to do with a 24-hour, time out window?
“When we’re constantly going, we pour out chemicals to meet those stresses,” explains Sleeth. “(This includes) short-term stress hormones like adrenaline, and longer-term hormones like the steroids we pour out.
“Those chemicals constantly being ‘on’ are bad for us, and they lead to anxiety and depression, (as well as) diabetes and being obese… the idea of having one day a week that I can count on to stop is very reassuring.”
Indeed, Sleeth says his entire family began taking Sundays off more than a decade ago. At the time, his children were in high school, but when his son began medical school, he, too, kept up the practice.
“It helps you to order your life,” adds Sleeth. “It actually helped us as a family. Many people I’ve talked to now say that keeping one day of rest a week has been the single best thing they’ve done for their marriage and their family.”
Those are some pretty strong words, and at least for me, they all make perfect sense.
So, why don’t we all just go back to the way things used to be, say, in 1980?
I’ll tell you the reasons we don’t do it.
It’s not because more women are working outside the home, and can’t get to their household errands until Sunday. In fact, it’s not that it’s more convenient to consumers overall. And it’s not that life has become so frenetic that the only day left to buy our stuff is on a Sunday.
Rather, it comes down to one word.
In other words, businesses know that closing one day every week means less dough in their coffers—with little thought to the physical and emotional toll this policy likely takes on employees, and even shoppers, who, like the Energizer bunny, are compelled to keep going, and going, and going. Being able to buy things 24 hours a day via the Internet isn’t doing us any good either.
The madness isn’t going to end anytime soon.
But I can choose to check myself out of this particular game, and simply not participate.
So, here’s my pledge: from this day forward, I will make Sunday my stop day. And, instead of feeling guilty, I’ll know that it’s the right thing to do… mentally, physically and spiritually.
If so inspired, please feel free to take my hand, and come along for the sweet ride.
What are your memories of everything being closed on Sundays, and how do you feel about a stop day? I look forward to your comments!
PS. A classic song about Sundays—enjoy! www.youtube.com/watch?v=1IO-KwTNKzQ.