You Are Allowed to Rest
We recently celebrated Labor Day here in the United States. The first Labor Day took place in New York City in 1882 and was designed to bring workers from different sectors together to fight for their shared needs. Their main problem was simple: American workers were spending too much time, too many of the precious hours of the day, at work.
One of their rallying cries, in support of the eight-hour workday was “Eight hours for work, eight hours for rest, eight hours for what we will”.
Eight hours for work.
Eight hours for rest.
Eight hours for what we will.
What do you suppose those workers did with their hard-won hours for whatever they’d like? Perhaps they read or sat in the park. Perhaps they spent time with friends or cooked or went for walks. Perhaps they simply allowed themselves to be a human being who was not working.
The pendulum has swung back and it has swung hard. In many professions, medicine among them, we work long, difficult hours. The introduction of smartphones has made it is for us to be constantly connected to friends, to family— and to work. No matter where we are, no matter the hour, work can reach us by email, by phone call, by way of something that can be accomplished remotely. Labor organizers in the late 19th century recognized the dangers of being overworked and under-rested. They knew just how important it was to protect time dedicated just to being.
We might do well to recapture the spirit of the first Labor Day, fighting for and protecting time for “what we will”. What nourishes your soul? How would you use time meant only for you? Let us reclaim those hours to connect with our humanity, our brief and beautiful lives. You are allowed to take a break. You are allowed to rest. You are allowed to create time and space for the things that make you come alive.