For most people Labor Day just means the official end of summer and a nice long weekend to take the boat out on the lake one last time. Ironically, the people we should most be celebrating and remembering today, the men and women who do the back breaking work that keeps this countries capitalist wheels greased probably do not get the day off. Especially in September when harvest is in full swing for many crops, my guess is that migrant workers that harvest our food are in the fields on Labor Day… laboring.
So what is there to celebrate this Labor Day, particularly when unemployment is at 9.7%? Well, may I suggest that we really celebrate workers and work, not by taking a vacation, but by reflecting on the men and women whose sweat in the soil feeds us every day. Perhaps this remembrance will cause us to reflect on what work is and what work is for, maybe to develop a theology of work even.
I’ve pointed out recently that I need to read, hear and express thoughts in ways that are not so rational and propositional. I’ve been trying to read more poetries and stories. So, to celebrate Labor Day here is an appropriate poem I found at the Poetry Foundation’s website.
To the Negro Farmers of the United States by Alice Moore Dunbar-Nelson
God washes clean the souls and hearts of you,
His favored ones, whose backs bend o’er the soil,
Which grudging gives to them requite for toil
In sober graces and in vision true.
God places in your hands the pow’r to do
A service sweet. Your gift supreme to foil
The bare-fanged wolves of hunger in the moil
Of Life’s activities. Yet all too few
Your glorious band, clean sprung from Nature’s heart;
The hope of hungry thousands, in whose breast
Dwells fear that you should fail. God placed no dart
Of war within your hands, but pow’r to start
Tears, praise, love, joy, enwoven in a crest
To crown you glorious, brave ones of the soil.