Tuesday, April 02, 2013

Closing for Holy Days

We've just finished Easter weekend but of course in our house it was business as usual. Being Baha'i we don't celebrate and keep our business open on Christian holidays. Our customers love that we do this as they usually have time off to go shopping those days but I don't feel like I've gotten good at explaining the reason we do it or the flip-side of us closing for Naw Ruz. I think most people figure we are just die hard capitalists.

This year closing for Naw Ruz drew more attention than last year. The timing probably has something to do with it - March 21st fell on a quieter day last year - but we've also become more established and have a larger customer base. The majority of people responded with a friendly "happy new year" afterwards but one person gave me a hard time. He suggested that we hire "heathens" to keep things running while we took the day off and made sure to send the message that this a big inconvenience.

For the record, I know what business he had with us and it was not urgent.

I explained that it was not a matter of us taking a day off but that we are actually supposed to close for the day. I don't think this sunk in. I also explained that there are other holidays we are supposed to close for too.  

This is sadly an example of both why we aren't closing for all the Holy Days that we should and why we really should be. When we started our business we were scared that if we closed at all we would ruin our relationship with the public and drive away business. Closing for one Holy Day was an act of bravery for us but we did it out of dedication to the Faith. It has worked out for the one day a year that we do it. We tell our customers why we are closing well in advance and the results are often wonderful opportunities for discussion. But I don't know how many Baha'i business owners make efforts to obey this law and I wonder if not doing so diminishes the impact we can have on society. We, as a community, have been given the task of distinguishing ourselves from the social decay around us through our words and actions. We also hope to elevate and deepen the lives of those around us to be more meaningful regardless of their beliefs. While working hard is by no means the most harmful offence (we in fact view work as equal to worship) how are we supposed to distinguish ourselves when we do exactly what everyone else is doing?

I felt rattled after that encounter. It threw me back to the awkward feeling from childhood of being something other people don't understand. I try to remind myself that others experience far worse but I feel disappointed  that I'm not better at articulating what I am. In spite of the Faith being woven so deeply into my identity I am so often at a loss for words when explaining these things.