In today's busy world, there are people who do all kinds of things for others that everybody used to do for themselves. There is a phrase that we hear more and more these days: "I have a guy who does that for me."
I'm not just talking about people who will mow your lawn or shovel your snow or do your taxes. Today, you can hire someone who will organize your closets, or stand in line for you at the bank, or choose an anniversary gift for your spouse, or play catch with your kid while you watch TV. Recently, I learned about another "Don't Do It Yourself" service: in the Philippines, if you're too busy to pray, you can hire somebody to do it for you.
For a fee, "prayer ladies" will pray to God and ask him/her/it to grant you the things you would have asked for if you weren't too busy. One of these piety purveyors pointed out how grateful her clients are: "They often come back to thank me, especially if they pass the bar or medical school exam." It's weird enough that people feel it's appropriate to pray for a passing grade on an exam, but these future lawyers and doctors actually have someone else do the praying for them. If they pass their tests, are they going to have someone else plead in court for them? Will they give a few bucks to an old woman to perform surgery for them on days when they're "too busy?"
If there were ever an idea that is guaranteed to catch on in the United States and other Western countries, the "You Pay, We Pray" business is it.
It's a logical extension of it being acceptable to not take care of your responsibilities yourself. There are executives whose assistants have assistants. Some students buy term papers while their parents make up lies to get out of jury duty. The rationalization that we usually hear is that we are much busier and under more pressure than our ancestors were.
Busier and under more pressure? Are we busier than people who got up at dawn to milk the cows and get the eggs before they walked five miles to their jobs in town? Are we under more pressure than families where everybody worked full-time, and yet, somehow, they still took care of the home and the children? I can't remember the last time I started the day by fighting the Cossacks with only a blintz pan to defend my family, followed by my chopping down a tree so I could build a dining room table while my wife was at the river, doing the laundry with one hand while holding onto a nursing baby with the other.
We've got microwaves that cook our food in seconds, cars that tell us when we're getting lost, and lights that can be turned on and off by clapping. Men and women have never had to do less than they have to do today.
So, if we're not actually busier than in the past, why do so many of us feel the need to have other people do so many things for us? I think it's simply because all those day-to-day things are hard and not always fun, and people today try to avoid anything that's too difficult.
Sometimes, it's hard to play catch with your kid after you've been working all day. It's hard to take the time to find the perfect anniversary gift. And for some people, it's probably hard to swallow their pride, and pray from the heart. But just because these things might be hard or inconvenient, doesn't mean we should have somebody else do them for us. At least, that's what my ghostwriter tells me.
Lloyd Garver has written for many television shows, ranging from "Sesame Street" to "Family Ties" to "Frasier." He has also read many books, some of them in hardcover.
By Lloyd Garver
Copyright 2003 CBS. All rights reserved.