We live in a time when we think we can defy the laws of time (if not space or gravity…yet) and we pride ourselves on the fact that our society is always up and running, all day, every day. It’s some kind of badge of honor to be able to shop, buy gas, or go through a McDonald’s drive-thru any of hour of the day or night. And yes, I realize that many of our goods are produced round-the-clock and that efficiency is part of what keeps prices in check. And that shift workers may need to buy milk and bread when they get off work, even if that is in the wee hours of the morning.
But this “always on” mentality is coming at a high price and I don’t think it’s what God or nature intended. There’s a really good reason we have darkness each day: before modern times, it enforced a time of rest every day. There were excellent reasons why God commanded days and weeks (and occasionally years) of sabbath, aka rest, for His people and the land.
We like to think we’ve overcome those pesky obstacles with technology, and we disregard the underlying reasons why rest is good. We’ll sleep when we’re dead, or so the saying goes. Unfortunately, our choices to run non-stop don’t stop with us; we impose our choices on others, too.
In fact, those of us in the middle class may think we’ve never had servants, but in reality, we have created a de facto “servant” class: it’s just called by the more politically correct term of “service” or “retail” industry.
And just like the manor lords of old, we expect those employees to cater to our whims and we rarely give their needs or comfort a moment’s thought – we simply expect them to wait on us hand and foot, 24/7. On the rare occasion we do recognize their presence, it’s often while we are being petty, demanding and impatient “masters.”
And being a personal servant in the Gilded Era was no cakewalk, but arguably, certain aspects of the work environment was more humane and civilized, and certainly more dignified.
Before you decide it sounds like fun to see a midnight showing of a movie (or attend a movie on a holiday), think about the employees who must be there to sell tickets, pop your corn and make sure everything runs properly. Is it worth it when you begin to contemplate how many lives you’re disrupting to indulge yourself?
When you decide to make a late-night run to the grocery store for ice cream, look around at how many employees are on hand, just to serve you. Many–if not most–would prefer to be at home with their families, but they agree to work all night because the store owner wants to earn your business, O Great Customer.
I realize that few people will take up my challenge to bring back Sunday as a day of rest (and truth be told, we don’t always adhere to it, either.) But can’t we all agree to postpone our Christmas shopping by a few hours and let retailers know (by our absence) that we won’t be enticed by dead-of-night “deals” dangled in front of us? The same deals could be offered during normal business hours the next day. It’s highly unlikely that a store won’t be able to serve all its customers if it doesn’t get a headstart on the day.
We didn’t get in the mess we’re in because retailers suddenly got a wild hair to open their doors longer and longer hours. It started with consumer demands, and the only way the tide will turn is if we withdraw our demands. And honestly, wouldn’t we all be better off if we gave it a rest?