Happy Labor Day for those of you in the U.S!
This weekend a conversation I had last May with a visiting scholar from China keeps coming to mind. I wished him a Happy Labor Day, telling him it wouldn’t be Labor Say in the U.S. until late August. He gave me a quizzical look and said, “But it’s International Labor Day!”
“Well, it’s International Socialist Labor Day, so you’re right, socialist countries all over the world are celebrating. Since the U.S. isn’t socialist, you can guess our labor day is another time. :).”
He was a bit surprised that he’d never heard a key adjective in the name and took him a moment to adjust to this new information.
What strikes me is not the difference, but the similarities. Two such different countries with vastly different histories and systems came up with a similar holiday to address a need in society.
This points to a universal truth that supersedes politics, history, or culture.
What are we humans good at? Extremes! A holiday like labor day is a small attempt as a society to say that though work is important and necessary, it is not everything. Labor with no rest is slavery. And rest with no work is laziness. Living with the tension of working AND resting is … messy.
Though it is not billed as such in either country, I see Labor Day as a nod to God and the rhythms of feasting and fasting, planting and harvesting, working and resting. We tend to pick an extreme and plant a flag there (dare I say a modern day altar or idol?) and then fuss at our slavery. What’s one of the in words of our times?
We glorify it and hate it.
Labor Day isn’t a high holy day. True. It is not a part of the church calendar and is celebrated at different times of the year in different countries. When Labor Day comes to your country, how about seeing it as a reminder to live in the messy middle, to resist the extremes the Tempter wants us to believe are our best choices.
To labor well.
To rest well.
To be present with the people we are with — either in work, social or home settings — and to quit believing we can (or should) be in multiple places at once.
May we be people who see God sprinkling reminders and invitations all around us.
(and I’d love to hear about Labor Days around the world!)