As we approach Labor Day, I want to pause and give thanks to all who work hard to make a living for themselves and those they love.
I am particularly mindful of those who feel stuck in a job they don’t want and can’t get out of, who feel trapped by life’s circumstances and dream about something better but don’t see any options that make sense to them.
I admire them greatly. Many of them work long, hard hours in order to sustain their household.
Growing up, my Dad worked three jobs. He had his daily, 9-5 job. He would wake us in the morning, fix us breakfast, get us ready for school and then leave for the office. He would come home and have a quick dinner with us, only to leave for an evening job he worked and would not return until long after we were in bed. And then he had another job he worked on weekends. He did everything he could and had to provide for his seven children. I can remember times when Mom would also work nights as a waitress just to try and make ends meet.
After working for 25 years at his steady, main job – my Dad got fired because his employer hadn’t paid into any pension for him and, rather than have to back pay him for that when things started to change, they let him go. He would work well into his 70s, spending the rest of his working days at various minimum wage jobs.
I never heard him complain. Mom did for him, but Dad would just smile. He told his children over and over again to work hard at whatever we did. He certainly modeled that for us.
Among life’s greatest joys are these: ending a day knowing you spent your labor honestly, completing something that made a difference; providing sustenance for another, be it a spouse or children or loved one; being able to support a good cause from the fruit of your own labor; being able to provide ones you love not only with sustenance, but leisure and joy and an occasional extravagance as a reward for your hard work – and see the smiles you give and the memories that over a lifetime will bring back that smile.
We are all born with passions and talents that enable us to offer our labor and craft to another. There is deep satisfaction in exerting one’s self physically mentally, and spiritually in order to shape a life in work and service.
This Labor Day, I give God thanks for the endowment of those gifts, talents, and passions that sustain us over a lifetime. I give God thanks for all who give an honest, hard day’s work for an honest, living wage.
And I also give God thanks for the laborer who lives in drudgery, who toils in anonymity, who expends much and receives little. I am not so much thankful for their circumstances as I am for their willingness through it all to simply keep doing whatever they have to in order to provide for their loved ones.
And I am thankful, and prayerful, for those who for whatever reason want to but cannot work: be it mental or physical limitations, job markets unwilling or unable to take advantage of their skills and passions, being exiled away from homeland due to the political circumstances surrounding them.
Finally, I am grateful for what has been a life of good, hard, honest, meaningful, and gratifying work. I have been fortunate to pursue my own passions and work in the field I believe I was born to work in. I consider myself very fortunate, and full of thanks to the Creator for this. May you experience the joy of coming home exhausted for having spent your labor in service to another, and may all you do bring you satisfaction on this, your journey Into the Mystic.