In a few days we will celebrate Labor Day, a holiday that for many people is little more than the symbolic end of summer. However, to relegate this holiday to the closing of a season is unfortunate for a number of reasons.
Most of us are not even aware of the holiday's origin. Labor Day was created by the labor movement as a national tribute to the contributions workers have made to the strength and health of our country. The first observance took place in 1882 in New York, and in 1894 Congress passed an act making the first Monday in September a legal holiday.
Labor Day is a good thing and I am all for a day off from work, but the real benefit of the holiday comes from the introspection that it might prompt, if given the chance.
If Labor Day is a time of celebrating the contribution of the American worker to our way of life, why not move that appreciation from the collective awareness to a personal one and make it something that is close to a spiritual discipline?
Instead of thinking collectively, use the day to reflect on the contributions of workers to our own personal lives. It is a perfect day to take note of how the hard labor of people all around us each day contributes to our way of life.
Work goes unappreciated
Some of the most profound labors are the most unappreciated. For example, every Sunday evening I roll our trash dumpster to the street. At some point on Monday I roll it back to the house, often without even thinking about what was involved in the fact that it is empty and ready to be filled again. You can set a watch by the trash truck every Monday morning, rain or shine. Those men are busy before sunrise and often the only appreciation they get is when their truck no longer slows traffic during pickup times.
My Charlotte Observer is delivered to the same spot at the bottom of my driveway every morning. I never even question whether it will be there. My mail is placed in the mailbox every day, and I don't know that I have ever thanked the deliverer for the commitment required for that job.
If someone in my family gets sick during the night, I never question if the emergency room is open. While I may not think regularly about their round-the-clock availability, I certainly want them on duty when I or someone in my family becomes ill. If my cable goes out a few hours before a Panthers game, I want someone in a truck to be on their way immediately. I forget that they might prefer to be home with their family watching the game as well.
When the sun goes down, I turn on my lights. I seldom think of all the people who are necessary for that light bulb to burn bright.
All of these labors contribute to my way of life.
More than just summer's end
By now you get my point. Labor Day really is a marvelous opportunity to take note of how the labor of lots of people keeps our unprecedented way of life propped up.
On a much deeper level, Labor Day should affirm the interrelatedness of all God's creatures.
This holiday can be so much more than just the closing parentheses to summer. It should remind us that in every facet of life we are connected and dependent upon each other. Every day we are the beneficiary of the labor of others all around us.