August 31, 2007

Cornucopia / Cynthia Dewes

Onward and upward because of Labor Day

Cynthia DewesWell, it’s already Labor Day and summer is about over. Nuts.

We’re nowhere near the goals that we established last spring, and all the clichés are heard in our land: time flies, where did the summer go, blah-blah-blah.

The flowers are no better tended at this point than they were last year. The porch furniture needs cleaning as much as it did in May. The garage is still a place of mystery, never to be free before snowfall of its abundance of junk, dog fur and chewed plastic objects.

Not only that, ambitious plans are gone with the wind. Where is our new swimming pool when we need(ed) it? Where are the repotted plants, the clean windows inside and out? It is a mystery devoutly to be wished (or solved).

The kids are mostly back at school even though the heat goes on (isn’t that from a song?). Jobs are being filled, fall weddings celebrated, club meetings and community services planned and carried out after the summer hiatus.

It’s the end of something, true, but it’s also the beginning of a new season of activity. So it seems fitting that a day dedicated to labor and those who practice it is celebrated at this time of year.

We used to feature hard, physical labor in honoring Labor Day. There were hod carriers and stonecutters and scullery maids and others doing backbreaking work who earned our praise. Today the nature of work has often changed to more cerebral or technological jobs, but any kind of honest work or worker deserves to be celebrated.

Well, most work. There are folks who produce reality TV shows (the less realistic the better), and we do have to wonder how noble that is. There are politicians who think getting re-elected is the chief requirement for their position—as opposed to researching legislation or keeping in touch with the will of their constituents.

There are entertainers who participate in grossly vulgar or immoral presentations while claiming they are catering to popular taste or creating avant-garde art. There are business people who believe making more money is their most important goal, regardless of product quality, customer service, decent working conditions or the good of the community.

There are those people. But then there are the rest of us, and we deserve a pat on the back—at least once a year on Labor Day. We need to praise the workers who prepare themselves to do a good job, and then give an honest amount of work in return for their pay.

We should praise civil servants who keep us safe, fight our fires and administer our civic agencies. We should honor dedicated priests, ministers and religious who serve God by serving us every day in so many ways. And we must praise those teachers who don’t get much respect or much pay for sticking with the kids and trying to produce literate, responsible adults.

We should applaud computer experts, without whom we would be as technically helpless as most of us truly are. We should honor kids and immigrants and less educated folks who fry our McBurgers and wait on our tables, and thank store clerks, parking attendants and medical caregivers.

Work is something we all need to do to survive, but it also brings value to our lives and the lives of others. It is from God. Happy Labor Day to all of us workers.

(Cynthia Dewes, a member of St. Paul the Apostle Parish in Greencastle, is a regular columnist for The Criterion.) †

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