Idle hands are the devil’s workshop!” This Scripture passage is a reflection of this day we honor with a holiday. The need to work, the necessity of work is part of who we are. When Adam and Eve were cast out of the Garden of Eden, God told them that from now on you will work with your hands and live by the sweat of your brow. Work, labor, doing tasks, accomplishing goals—these are all part of our human nature and defining part of our humanity, no matter where in the world we reside.
For Americans, the Protestant Work Ethic, that hard work, busy hands, and focused hearts keep us out of trouble is core to our national experience. This is why hobbies, which occupy our energies and free time, are helpful on keeping us distracted from the problems of life, and, afford us the opportunity to both achieve and relax (or recreate ourselves). This recreation (and vacation) is the flip side of the labor coin. Even God said that we were to work for 6 days, but, on the 7th to rest from any labors.
Part of the Labor Day holiday is an understanding that the privilege to work, acquire a decent wage, build up one’s family through financial security, and, contribute to the uplifting of the greater community through our efforts and energies, that all these highlight the significance of this day and give it it’s true meaning.
Unfortunately, too many people see it as the “official” end of summer as the reality of school and the coming of fall intrude on the celebrations of summer. We must never fail to hand on to future generations the meaning of “holidays” in general, and the significance they display in our culture. The labor movements of the 19th century helped to usher in better jobs, working conditions and various other benefits that help value the work day. Sadly, too many of the unions have moved into the political sphere sometimes at the cost of the very worker they claim to represent. It’s time to focus on whether the words of a politician matter more than the rights of the worker.
All these thoughts are part of the holiday we call Labor Day. And, although the timing of the day on the calendar suggests a coming of change in season, good, hard work remains a basic and normative part of our American experience. May you find this day both refreshing and rewarding.