Once upon a time in the not too distant past, there was a day that most Americans took off every week. In fact, they were expected and encouraged to so they could attend to their spiritual needs, preserve family connections and occasionally, recover from the rigors of an exceptionally pleasant and instructive Saturday night.
Retail stores were closed, restaurants were not allowed to open until 4:00pm and the bakery and pharmacy shuttered their doors after serving the last group of worshipers.
As we became a more diverse and secular society, it became the day to laze around the house, watch sports or stay in bed for hours with the Sunday paper.
Dad wasn’t made to shave and Mom didn’t have to cook. In the summers, it was the hammock swinging gently in the breeze as you sipped lemonade and dozed, followed by the afternoon cookout.
In the winter, it was ice-skating or a long walk, then a roaring fire, a good book and some hot cider became the order of the day. The evenings were spent watching “60 Minutes” and “The Wonderful World of Disney” before going to bed, relaxed and ready for the new day.
It was a day that had a special kind of quiet, a time that you could use to recalibrate yourself with the simple pleasures of spending time with your family, your pet or your inner child. The next day, you would go back to face the world of grown-up decisions, the hurly-burly of too much to do in too little time, and the aggravations of a world that seemed to take devilish delight in foiling your best-made plans.
But on this day, none of that mattered. For a brief time, you were safe in the softness and comfort of a day where the universe had no expectations for you to fulfill, except to enjoy the rest you had spent the entire week earning.
The day is still called Sunday, but the Sunday of today bears no resemblance to the Sundays of my childhood. It’s now just another day of the week. It is no longer the day that marked the boundary between the week past and the week to come. It has become just another day of work, fast food, grown-up decisions, too much to do in too little time, and the aggravations of a world that foils your plans before Monday even begins.
That we let this beautiful moment of respite escape from our grasp is a sorry commentary on the way we live our lives. We traded this small priceless moment of peace for another chance to chase a dollar, or wander around looking for a way to spend it, all the while forgetting that the best things cost nothing, yet cannot be purchased for a king’s ransom. True quality of life cannot be purchased, it must be lived. Perhaps we should stop always looking ahead and but look to our past when many things of value cost nothing, but gave priceless returns.