When did Labor Day first appear as a holiday on your childhood radar?
For many, it occurred at school registration the Friday before Labor Day. Registration required rising early, cleaning up, and filling out cards. Labor Day didn’t rate a party — not a single piece of candy. We didn’t color smelly, mimeographed pictures, as we did even on St. Patrick’s Day.
Labor Day returned us to summer sanity. We picnicked and swam. However, at dusk, we were scrubbed in bathtubs, then sent to bed early.
Labor Day began as fun, but its ending? Not so much. Worse, we’d drag out before daylight the next day. The next 12 years!
Labor Day marked the onset of hard labor.
Once I grew accustomed to school mornings, though, Labor Day portended excitement: I’d play with kids besides my (yuck) siblings. I’d wear “new” hand-me-downs. Color with unbroken crayons. I’d get down to the business of learning and discover a world far beyond the cornfields.
No one explained how Labor Day began. Unions weren’t strong in my rural area. Labor Day parades consisted of Boy Scouts, tractor convoys, and bands with wavy marching lines and wavier tones.
Other than my giving up white shoes, Labor Day’s significance remained tied to school’s beginning — for me, then for my children.
Gradually, I learned the holiday was rooted in injustice, power struggles and political turmoil. I won’t attempt to untangle shame and blame. Instead, I’ll get down to the business of gratitude. To simply say, “thank you” to workers who make a difference in our lives.
Thank you to the courteous, young server whose efficiency made me want to vote him in as President.
Thank you to factory workers who — despite repetitive, uninspiring work — care about quality.
Thank you to store greeters who offer real smiles. (You don’t think that’s work? Pretend you’re in a wedding reception line for eight hours.)
Thank you to housekeeping personnel who keep restrooms clean.
Thank you to all who labor with excellence when nobody’s watching.
I doubt the above would appreciate my coloring a mimeographed picture in their honor, but I hope my small tributes appear on their radar.
Though dedicated work may not be a picnic, it’s certainly something to celebrate every day.
Your Extraordinary Ordinary: Have you thanked a worker today?