Celebrating Labor Day

This has been an exceptionally hard spring and summer for us, so a time for relaxation is always welcome. Today I’m offline (I’m actually writing this on Saturday) and will likely barbecue something for my beautiful wife. We’ll play games and watch a movie (or possibly go for a walk should we feel so inclined). Today’s society is so high strung that it seems to be a requirement that people remain active all of the time, even when there really isn’t anything important to do. Yes, I could easily find something useful to do, but today I’ll relax.

I’ve written about Labor Day twice before: Labor Day, Time for Fun and Reflection and Labor Day, Eh?. Both posts expound on some important historical elements behind Labor Day. Unfortunately, this year I wasn’t able to find anything new to add to those two posts. I’m sure there must be something more to say, but sometimes it’s hard to separate fact from fiction and I didn’t want to reduce the importance of those previous posts. Actually, I’d enjoy hearing anything new you have to add on the subject that I haven’t discussed already. Just contact me, as normal, at [email protected] or leave a comment on my blog.

No matter what else you do today, I hope you take a little time to unwind and to think about why we’re celebrating this particular day. The history behind Labor Day is important, especially in light of what is happening in labor today with the economy. The struggle for obtaining just wages and good working conditions never ends because someone is always looking for ways to get more for less.


The Sublime Art of Thankfulness

As we prepare for another Thanksgiving with the usual turkey, parades, and sports, it’s time to consider the sublime art of thankfulness. For many people, please and thank you, when offered at all, are quickly proffered sentiments, rushed out at a moment’s notice. However, on this particular day, something a little more noble is required, in keeping with the holiday. After all, the very act of breathing is reason for praise for someone with emphysema. Why not for the rest of us?

It’s a privilege to discover the source and emanation of true thanksgiving at times when life has handed you something less than ideal gifts in the minds of those around you. Seeing the foot of a loved one move when the doctors have said that she’ll never walk again is a wonderment beyond measure. A joyous occasion evoking streams of tears at something so small and commonly accepted as normal. The delight of a sunrise, flowers in fall, family togetherness, and more all provide reasons for thankfulness because they can be so easily taken away, never to return.

Thankfulness is a process of the heart, not of the mind. The mind doesn’t understand it, but heart feels it to the bottom of the soul. An overflowing cup rarely consists of the material, but rather those things that can’t be purchased with any amount of money nor with any labor, no matter how monumental. So on this day of Thanksgiving, take time to consider thankfulness, the divine moment of gratitude for all that we have and not the rash expression of any lack. It’s my sincere wish that you have an amazing Thanksgiving filled with the delights of laughter and the closeness of those you love most.

Rebecca and I will be taking Thanksgiving weekend off. For this reason, you won’t see any posts from me either Thursday or Friday. We’ll continue working through the GrabAPicture program next week. Thank you for your continued support of me and the materials I write. I’m truly grateful that you’ve given me the opportunity to serve your needs.


Labor Day, Eh?

Few Americans realize it, but Labor Day began as a Canadian celebration. That’s right, it was first celebrated in Canada in 1872 with parades in support of the Toronto Typographical Union’s strike for a 58-hour work week. At the time of the parade, it wasn’t unusual for workers to work a 66 to 72 hour work week. Unfortunately, as I write this, many workers are still engaged in a 66 to 72 hour work week—some work even longer.

The first celebration in this country didn’t occur until September 5th, 1882 when New York’s Central Labor Union marched into Union Square as a sign of solidarity and to focus on all the benefits organized labor provides to society. At least a few people credit the original Labor Day as another Irish holiday in this country. I probably wouldn’t go that far. However, the union leader was Irish. There is some confusion as to whether it was Peter McGuire or Matthew Maguire who led the union at the time. Labor Day began as a
festival for the unionized labor in this country and is supposed to
include parades and speeches centered on the importance of the union in
assuring worker’s rights.

The first federal recognition of Labor Day came in 1894 when President Grover Cleveland pushed it through congress after the devastating Pullman strike in May 1894, where many workers lost their lives after being shot by police, U.S. Marshals, and the military. The purpose of Labor Day is political—reconciliation with the labor unions. The president and congress hoped the holiday would help quell any further disputes. It’s a fact that many of the rights that workers enjoy today are written in the blood of laborers of the past who weren’t afraid to say no, even if it meant losing their lives to do it.

Today, the original purpose of Labor Day is all but forgotten. It has become a time for picnics, kids going back to school, the end of summer, and a time when women stop wearing white. (According to most sources I found, the rule against wearing white started in the early 20th century and has now mostly gone out of date.) I’m sure there will be a few parades and possibly a few mentions of organized labor, but many people will simply view it as a nice time to take a day off to review the summer before engaging in the work of the fall months.

It’s important, especially in these economic times, to consider the role of organized labor in establishing the lifestyle we enjoy today. Many Americans don’t truly appreciate how well we live, but we do live quite well compared to many other places on the planet. Labor, organized or not, has helped make that quality of life a reality. Where would we be without carpenters, plumbers, electricians, factory workers, and the like? So, while I’m taking Monday off to celebrate the holiday by smoking some meat (an all day event), I’ll give some thought to people like my father who worked in grueling conditions so that I might enjoy a high quality of life. Let me know your thoughts about Labor Day at [email protected].