The dignity of work, of doing our best as a reflection of our character is often ignored today.
Labor Day is a celebration of the work force of America, of those who committed to the exertion of building this country with their toil and talent.
The first Labor Day was celebrated only by New York, on September 5, 1882. It was planned by the Central Labor Union to honor all those who had worked tirelessly to grow their city to its greatness. Workers from many countries who had immigrated here to find a better way of life contributed to this.
On June, 28, 1884 it became a federal holiday, recognizing how the American worker had raised our standard of living and contributed to the incredible economy we still experience today.
Many arrived from Ellis Island ready and willing to work, to grow themselves and this country.
I had a rare moment of insight as a teenager when I asked my Dad if he enjoyed his job. He peered at me as if the question made no sense. “Do I enjoy my job?”
“Do you like what you do? Is it what you’ve always wanted to do?”
That brought a laugh. Dad was part of the Great Generation who grew up during the Depression, who fought in World War 2 and the Korean War, who knew what it was to work hard and not always get what was deserved.
He explained the value wasn’t in the job itself–he was fine with what he did. He was a sales manager for an appliance company. It’s where he found work after the service, and he put in his time and moved up the ranks. The value for him was the chance to work, to do his best for his family and his community.
He said, “There is dignity in work. Doing a job to the best of your ability is more important than what the job is.”
At a time when people are picky about what they’ll do or who they’ll work for, we’ve lost the sense of pride in our work. Dad was loyal to the company he worked for; his generation would get a job and stay with it for fifty years.
Not so today. We go where we believe the grass is greener. Or we wait for the better opportunity, not willing to work at something that’s beneath us.
There are people coming into our country who are wanting to work, to do whatever it takes to be part of the larger community of America and make a home for their families.
They understand the dignity of work.
When God created Adam and Eve, He didn’t give them a free pass for a life of leisure. He created them to work.
“The Lord God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it.” Genesis 2:15
We were created to work, to take care of what is around us. We work by design. It’s what fulfills who we are meant to be.
This Labor Day, appreciate the value of what you do for work.
It’s in our very nature to toil purposefully.