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July 22, 2018

In today’s gospel, Jesus reminds us all of the importance of coming apart from the usual hum-drum of life’s complexities to recharge and refresh. If R & R was good enough for God at the conclusion of the creation narrative in Genesis, then it’s good enough for all of us. Taking vacation time from work, resting with the companionship of those whom we love, these are crucially important for all of us in life. The scriptures refer to this as Sabbath time. Our world usually refers to it as vacation time.

A few years ago, I received a memo from the Archdiocese upholding the importance of vacation. Some of what I remember from it follows.

One of the most valuable benefits any worker has, in Church or anywhere else, is vacation time. Everyone is encouraged to take time off to spend time with family and friends, to rest mentally and physically and to disconnect from the everyday rigors of work. In this day and age of feeling the need to constantly be connected, dialed in, and feel valued, it can sometimes be problematic or difficult for someone to take time off. Even when people have vacation time accrued to themselves, I’ve heard of situations where people are afraid to avail of that for which they’ve worked, in case they will be poorly thought of.

It would seem to me that far-sighted employers would do well to respect the need for their employees to recharge so they are able to work productively and strive for excellence in their daily work. As an employee, I would hate to feel that I must check in while on vacation. Having said that, I have to confess myself to not always observing the boundaries. The truth is that good leadership and management means other people should be appropriately able to manage anything that comes up while we are away from our work enjoying our vacation time.

Everyone should be encouraged to take time off. In the gospel, it’s clear that Jesus invites his disciples apart for some rest in order that then can re-focus themselves and center themselves once again on what is important. For many people, this involves time with family and friends, taking care of ourselves, and becoming engaged in the memories we’re making with our families. It’s good to get away and not be distracted by work e-mails or phone calls.

For myself, I appreciate it when good friends remind me gently that I am on vacation and that I don’t need to respond to emails while on vacation or retreat. It’s good for me to be reminded that even with technology as present as it is to us in our lives, I should enjoy my vacation and not feel obligated to be connected to work.

In preparation for vacation, it might be prudent to speak with colleagues or others who might be impacted by my absence. It’s good to prepare others for the difference that your absence may make. It can be important to let others know that you’re on vacation, and that you’ll address any needs or concerns that arise upon your return. Ideally, letting someone know that there’s another person who can assist if necessary, can be helpful and reassuring. Speaking with work colleagues and cooperating with them in their own vacation plans, can go a long way to preparing for your absence and helping co-workers to feel comfortable too.

Relaxation is a hugely important human need. Everyone needs to take a break in order to nurture their deepest humanity. We have a responsibility to both avail of it for ourselves, and to respect and encourage others as they avail of it. When people are careful enough to invest in their own self-care, they can be trusted to care for others and for their work responsibilities also. Commitment and loyalty are always to be commended, but a person's well-being contributes greatly to the well-being of the organization of which they are a part. Everyone comes out a winner when we come apart for awhile and experience restoration of spirit and renewal of self.

Enjoy your time off this summer.

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