The bank holiday a week ago seems to have confused my week. It was a sort of day off, but things still had to be done. Although a 'Bank Holiday' my bank was open, and I was able to pay in the Sunday collection. As I went to the bank I noticed how busy the shops were: they were all open, all very busy with families.
Just like a normal Saturday, really. It did seem strange that the May Day holiday, a day for the workers, obliged all the workers in the retail industry to work, and the expectation of families was that all would be open for them. I wonder if we have gone too far in our desire to shop at all hours. There was no atmosphere of peace and calm in the shops, it was all frantic; there was no sense of 'holiday' at all, no sense of relaxation, just a normal commercial day. When I was in Israel I visited a strict Jewish area on a Saturday morning. Nothing was happening, the Sabbath was being kept as it should. It was reminiscent of the Sundays of my youth in the 1950s, when all was quiet, and even football in the street was looked down upon. It was not only the Lord's Day, but also clearly a day of rest, just as the Sabbath is for the strict Jews even now. Should not our Bank Holidays, (as well as our Sundays) be a chance for all workers, including shop-workers, to rest, to see their families, to re-charge the batteries?
The French philosopher René Descartes coined the phrase "I think, therefore I am." We seem to have changed this to "I shop, therefore I am." We seem to identify ourselves by our shopping habits, which we need to satisfy at any given time. This is encouraged by the stores themselves, who have their target markets clearly identified by the social groupings from A to C3. As Christians, we should consider both the needs of the shop-workers, and also the way we have been manipulated by the stores to use them. We could take direct action by refusing to shop on Sundays. (I found out that the bank employees had volunteered to work on the Bank Holiday, and were paid more for the few hours they were open. It was their economic choice.)
We do need to reflect on the life of our society, and bring our own Christian insights into everyday life. I'm not sure if a retreat to the Sundays of the 1950s is possible or even desirable. What I do think is certain is that families need to think about what they do together in the few hours that they are together. If it is only shopping then it seems wrong, wrong for the families, and also for the shop workers. How do we keep the Sabbath holy in our own homes?