Chúc Thanh translates into English Read in Vietnamese
Being too busy makes us feel trapped and unhappy. It also diminishes our daily social skills and suffocates our knowledge…
“If there was only one day left to live our life
We would suddenly realize how beautiful life is.
When we are so hurried in our daily livesWe have no peace when we’re leaving…”
As I always do, I went back to visit my mother and my relatives who are living in Montreal, Canada. This year I visited my family for two weeks in late June. There was no need to say how happy we were to reunite.
It was very hot in Montreal in the summer, sometimes over 100 degrees, so my family usually went out for a walk to breathe the fresh air. I still remembered the morning when the whole family decided to go to the park so that the kids could enjoy nature. I was dressed and ready to go for a long time but everyone else was just piddling around; it was almost 9:00 AM and no one had changed their clothes yet, especially the kids, who were still busy with their games.
I started to lose my temper: “You are all like turtles! Do you want to go or not?” I asked. My younger sister calmed me down. “Take it easy Sis, this is a vacation! You live in America too long; you stay ‘stressed out’ so much.” At the same time my younger brother also asked: “Why are you getting angry? Don’t you know that today is a ‘No Hurry Day’?” I was surprised, and thinking I had heard incorrectly, I asked: “What day? What is No Hurry Day?”
My mother turned on the TV. I saw that on every television channel people were talking about this special day. It was also on the radio. Many years ago, the Canadian government had decided to choose one day in the summer, usually on a weekend, as a “No Hurry Day”. This year that day was June 26th. For several weeks before, all the public TV channels and newspapers reminded everyone to prepare for this special day.
No Hurry Day started at 8:00AM and lasted until 9:00PM. Everyone was advised “to sleep until you feel good enough to wake up, enjoy your coffee, look deeply into your garden and listen to the birds singing. If you like you can go out, and stop by any restaurant if you feel hungry. Or you can invite friends to your house for a BBQ. You can ride your bike around the city or lie down on the grass in a park near your home and so on…”
Generally speaking, the government encouraged their citizens to “enjoy every minute in peace and happiness…” on No Hurry Day, and to “…live deeply and benefit from the happiness around us…” as a reporter said on TV. There were many interviews with local citizens: “What do you do on No Hurry Day?” Many said that they’d spend their time with family members and loved ones. There was one interview that I would never forget. A very old man with white hair answered the question with a huge smile. “I always love this day and wait for it to come around every year because this is the only day that all my children and grandchildren are not busy; all of them gather at my house with me. Thank you to the government and to all of those who made this day such a special and meaningful day!”
All of this changed my way of thinking. I told my family: “Since this is a special day, we should do something special!” Every single one in the family responded in an uproar: “We don’t have to cook today - we can eat out for fun,” said one. “The restaurants are too crowded today, so we should go for a walk in the city,” advised another. My younger brother wanted to bike around the city (in Montreal there are many places to rent bikes where you just need to slide you credit card and get your own bike.) The kids wanted to take a boat tour on the Bateau Mouche. Some other wanted to go fishing or to ride around the city in a horse-drawn carriage. We finally came up with a solution by taking a more democratic vote. The final decision by majority was to walk around Vieux Port (an old downtown) and took the tour on the Bateau Mouche. We all started the journey, relaxed and without any hurry.
All the streets were slowed by traffic jams, but nobody honked the horn. They sat in their cars with an easy mood, even rolling their windows down to smile to others and say “No hurry! Be happy!”
I actually absorbed the meaning of the three words “No Hurry Day” when we got in line to buy tickets for the tour. It was a long line and it was a really hot summer day, but everyone still wore a smile on their face, talking and shaking hands with each other even with those they never met before. It seemed like no one there that day was hurried or stressed. The entire peaceful environment surrounded me in such a way that I felt relaxed indeed!
When we got onto the boat, David - my 5-year old nephew - was in a hurry to find his seat, but his little sister, at just 4 years of age, lectured him right away. “David, today is No Hurry Day. Why don’t you slow down?” That made the whole family laugh so hard and I laughed too because of her innocent comment.
At lunch time, hungry, we stopped by at a Chinese restaurant. It was crowded with customers but everyone was happy while they waited in line for their turn. While we were waiting, a Quebec lady standing next to me started a conversation. She asked what I was doing today. I told her about the happy day spending with my family. She smiled and told me that she only had her two children, as her husband had passed away a long time ago. As usual on this day she let her children decide where they wanted to go and what they wanted to do. “Life is usually such a rush!” she added. “This afternoon we heard about this famous restaurant. My daughter loves Chinese soup and that is why we are here, waiting in line.” I nodded my head and felt so happy in my heart.
After lunch, the evening was coming and no one wanted to go home so we made up our mind to go to the park for fun. As I looked around me, there were a lot of people and I felt very happy. Laying out a piece of sedge mat on the grass I stretched out on my back with my arms outspread. It seemed that for the ten years that I had been living in the US, I had never felt like this. While the kids enjoyed their swings, riding down the slide and shouting at each other…I wore my sunglasses and enjoyed each breeze in the fresh air, doing nothing and reflecting on my life. How strange, because of this special day today, I realized that I had never had a free day like No Hurry Day in my life!
I was born in Saigon in a poor family, so I knew that only an education could get me out of the poverty I knew at that that time. I studied very hard when I was young. From elementary school to high school and through college, my entire life was books and studied. My childhood never had a No Hurry Day. Whenever my teacher was sick and we were let out early, while my friends were looking for a place to relax or have a cup of coffee, I was happy because I had more free time to study. I rushed home on my bike, washed my face and went straight to my room to study. When I took an examination, getting 9 points made me sad because I didn’t get the 10 points that I loved so much. Everyone told me that because I only expect perfection I would cause misery for myself.
In five years of college I never had a No Hurry Day. I was busy all the time with my classes and my examinations. I always wanted and tried my best to get 10 points on every single exam. I was willing to stay up late, to get up early, to do whatever needed to earn the 10 points that brought me so much happiness! Once my best friend told me this reasonable saying: “Studying without playing is losing your youth; playing without studying is selling the future”. I replied right away, “I have to study hard because only an education helps us out of poverty!” She laughed: “I choose both, studying and playing. I only need to pass my exams and that’s enough. You will have regrets later…” I smiled back at her without comment, but now I know that she was right!
I graduated from college in Canada and left school for work. I plunged into my job, working hard in order to earn a lot of money in a very short time. I was willing to work 7 days a week and at least 13 hours a day. Doing this for almost 3 years took all of my energy, so I had to cut down to working just 5 days a week. For ten years, I saved enough money and my eagerness to make more money quickly brought me to the stock market. I became addicted to stocks and Wall Street, to the rising and falling market of each company. I was lucky with stocks, so overnight I became a millionaire, but even then I did not have a single “No Hurry Day” in my life. Right after instant success, my head churned again trying to invest in such a way that my asset would double or triple. I took risks to gamble even more. Quoting an old saying that “the more risk the more gain,” I reasoned that I already have had lots of guts to make big money, so if I wanted to get richer, I needed to be even braver.
The stock market began to fail and I couldn’t react quickly enough so I lost everything – empty handed once more. I encouraged myself. “There is no problem. If I still have my good health, and if I want to get rich, I can start from the bottom and one day soon I will have everything.” I decided to move to the U.S. since America is a land of opportunity and success. I again plunged into my work, working hard and saving to rebuild my life. In the years after 2000, the pharmaceutical and computer fields had such a shortage of employees, so everyone in the world wanted to move to the U.S. for a better salary. I worked full time five days a week and took all the overtime whenever possible. I worked from very early in the morning until dark, eating food to go, spending nothing, saving every penny in my wish to change my life… Opportunity struck again when the real estate market exploded. Housing prices were rising almost everyday, and if you were slow to blink an eye… the dream house could be swept away just like that… sorry but you can just bury your sorrow with it. I was swirled up in this “tornado” like million other Americans.
On my two days off every week I left my home from 8:00AM until 9:00PM and drove to every dead end to look for houses with the sign “for sale by owner” or any ugly house that needed a little fixing up, so that I could “flip” it to make a quick twenty-thirty thousand dollars. Some days I didn’t have time to eat, I just stopped by for food to go. The first house was “flipped” and sold easily, wow! Then the second one, the third one… The human greed is a bottomless pit.
Then suddenly, the real estate “balloon” bursted. Many people lost fortune – including myself, empty-handed again. After a second time being a millionaire, I hit bottom and owed money over my head. I tried to work nights and days to keep all my houses. But weaken-spirited, I sadly had to let things go because I had no other choice. All of my houses were in shortsale before the bank repossessed them. Now I would have to “go to plow” again until the end my life to pay back my debts. This was a meaningful lesson that I would never forget… you deserved it, you greedy thing!
That day, lying on the grass, breathing the fresh air on a warm summer day with nothing to do, made me feel so peaceful – a feeling I’d never had before in my life. I’m not rich now but I have my peace, which I didn’t have when I was twice a millionaire. I was deeply grateful to the Canadian government and the respectful wise ones who established this special day every year. It helped people to appreciate all the wonderful things that they are given in life!
I remember just a few weeks ago when I ran into my best friend from high school at a fast food restaurant in California. We only had time to say hello and have a short conversation. My friend was rushing to pick up her children from school and I was rushing to go back to work. My friend complained, “Why is our life so busy that only when we stop breathing will we stop being busy?” I smiled, “This is America…” She then asked for my email address and told me, “I’ll send you a beautiful article.” She smiled and added “It’s beautiful to read, but whether we can apply it in our daily lives or not is a horse of a different color.”
I checked my email that very evening. I received a message from her, “You should try your best to follow the advice in this article, but not me - I still keep my life busy.” I laughed and opened the article to read:
Being busy makes us stressful and frustrated
Being busy diminishes our everyday’s social skills
Being busy suffocates our knowledge
Being busy shortens our life
Being busy makes us not see the beauty of our loved ones
Being busy makes us walk like we are chased by ghosts
The busy life is the most unfortunate life in the world!
Nevertheless, Human beings always try to find a reason to be busy
In the end, what good does all this ‘go go go’ lead us?
Learn to stop!
Relax and enjoy!
And let things go as they really are!
When the “30th of the month” (the last day of life) is coming we are free to go in the empty mind without any worries!!
Surely, it seems that every single person finds reason to be busy, and we have never learned how to taste the meaning of life in our daily lives. As I was writing this down I remembered my aunt Kim Anh, whose doctors told that she only had a few months left to live. She told me that “Everyone has his/her own destiny.” She was so happy that she could have several months to live in peace and happiness without any hurry!
As evening set in everyone began to leave the park, and my family started to pack things u. My little niece was so sad that she asked her mother, “Mommy, will it be No Hurry Day tomorrow?” My sister smiled and answered, “It’s gone, every year in Canada there is only one No Hurry Day.” “Oh, no!” my niece complained, “I’d like to have No Hurry Day every day.”
My sister answered right away. “That’s easy my dear, if you know how to rest and enjoy your day. Don’t be in a hurry in any situation and that will become a No Hurry Day. I stood there and swallowed each of my sister’s words and felt “jealous” of my little niece. She was only four years old and already learned such a precious lesson while I had lived nearly half of my life before getting that same lesson!
On the way home, my younger brother played the song I love the most, very loudly from the radio:
“Only when we are confronting life-or-death situations
Do we would realize just how beautiful life really is.
When we are always in a hurry with our lives,
We do not feel at peace when we finally leave this world”
It’s very true - all my life I was always in such a hurry, so how could I have peace? Once again, I was so grateful for this special day that helped me to have a new and different viewpoint in life.
I remembered my two best friends. The one who is Christian goes to church on Sundays, has her Bible in her purse and reads it when she has free time. She always told me: “We should follow the teachings of God so that when we die we’ll go to heaven”. The one who is Buddhist goes to the temple when she has free time, and recites the Buddha’s names. She told me: “Living your life morally, observing the five precepts and doing your charity work will help you to be in the Buddha land.”
In that very moment I realized one thing: “If you know how to make every day in your life a No Hurry day, you will have 365 days a year in Heaven or Nirvana already!
It is my wish for everyone to have many No Hurry Days!!!