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.

labor day

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.

Amen? Amen.

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!)

Photo credit Juan Torres via Flickr cc

Categories: Faith, Holiday



Leave A Comment

  1. Sherrey Meyer September 1, 2014 at 10:16 am - Reply

    Happy Labor Day from one messy middler to another! Love your post today. It captures so much about who we are and what we do with our time. Found you via Unforced Rhythms and am so glad I did. Hope to see you around. Blessings on your week.

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      Amy September 3, 2014 at 3:59 pm - Reply

      Sherrey, I just popped over and read your post. Thanks for reminding me of the unemployed, “the least of these,” on this holiday!

  2. Lisa notes September 1, 2014 at 12:57 pm - Reply

    To labor well, to rest well, and to be present with the people we are with—that’s wonderful advice, Amy! Thanks for sharing this perspective on Labor Day. And I didn’t even know about International Socialist Labor Day until now. :)

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      Amy September 3, 2014 at 4:02 pm - Reply

      Lisa I loved your post and the way it spoke to this sports fan’s heart :)

  3. Mark Allman September 2, 2014 at 2:40 pm - Reply

    I dare say we most don’t do rest well. We should … we should relish both work and rest. We should be thankful for both in our lives and not let one rule.

    I hope you had a good Labor Day Amy.

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      Amy September 3, 2014 at 4:04 pm - Reply

      Thanks Mark, I think extremes are a problem for most of us. I’d be willing to bet that most who read this have troubles with rest, as you said. Living with tension, not so easy :). I hear the whisper over and over, “just do a little bit more, THEN you can rest more deeply or fully.” When the truth is there will always be just a little bit more to do!

  4. Betty September 2, 2014 at 7:48 pm - Reply

    Great post. Yes, that messy middle that we seem to cherish.

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      Amy September 3, 2014 at 4:04 pm - Reply

      Thanks Betty.

  5. Kelli Woodford September 3, 2014 at 12:57 pm - Reply

    Interesting how different cultures can sense that common need. And I love how you educated (at least) me on the two different Labor Days. Isn’t expansion a lovely thing? I’m so glad for people who don’t allow me to wallow in my ethnocentricity, but tell of their perspective, too.

    Thanks for sharing with Unforced Rhythms.

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      Amy September 3, 2014 at 4:05 pm - Reply

      Kelli, I so appreciate the community you’re fostering at Unforced Rhythms!

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