The Enid News and Eagle, Enid, OK

Enid Features

August 27, 2013

Labor with purpose has dignity

Do you celebrate your work on Labor Day? Think about it.

We are getting ready to celebrate a last fling of summer with a holiday in honor of  working people. We hope it will mean cooler weather, rain and autumn  in the air. Labor Day, as a national holiday, came into existence in 1894 at the urging of labor organizations, with a bill signed by Grover Cleveland. In the United States, the summer vacations begin with  Memorial Day and ends with Labor Day.  The first Monday in September was selected because it was halfway between July 4 and Thanksgiving, and this gave working people a day off for one last day of celebration before winter set in. When I was a kid, it simply meant we started school the next day, so I loved that holiday.  

We all approach work in different ways and for different reasons. Some work only for money. Others as a service to people and some only for the gratification of working and the joy of accomplishing something worthwhile. Whatever our real reason, I would hope we derive some pleasure from the work that we do.  Daddy used to say that if a person did work they loved, they never had to go to “work” a day in their lives. Every day was a pleasure and a joy.  

That sounds great, but I feel sure there were days during the Great Depression that Daddy went to work without joy.  Whether the work brought him joy or not, working with his team of mules, Joe and Jude, brought him a measure of satisfaction and accomplishment, and he was providing for his family. He brought pleasure into his work with his positive attitude.

While Daddy worked  for the government building roads and dams, Mother stayed home with us kids and kept the home running smoothly. She may have been a great actress, but I always felt that she really loved what she was doing and wouldn’t trade places with anyone. The joy she exuded came from within, and certainly not from her tasks at hand.  

The way Grandma and Grandpa worked after they settled in Indian Territory and raised their family on seemingly nothing, was a real challenge I am sure, but they continued to work hard and improve their land and eventually came out on top. They believed work was the answer to almost everything — worry, finances, grieving and getting ahead in life.  They passed that passion for work on to their succeeding generations.

We have all heard the saying that if you want a job done, ask a busy person to do it. I believe that is true. Look in any church or civic organization, and the ones who do most of the work are the ones who are the busiest with many, many accomplishments. They are happiest when busy and doing for others. Work is part of the driving purpose in the universe. Many look forward to when they can retire and quit all work. Others seek diligently for the easy tasks. But most happy people are those who work simply for the joy of accomplishment. Work should become an altar upon which we offer our best selves to a needy world.  The ability to work is such a blessing.

All labor, if it has a purpose, has dignity. There are no menial jobs. Whether a person is a ditch digger or a construction worker, a physician or cleans houses, every job is important. There are no jobs more important or more commonplace than another. Life’s simplest tasks contribute to society and living. The goal is to do good for others — and be joyful and feel a sense of achievement.

When I was a little kid, we all had chores to do. Mine, when I was about 4 years old, was to pick up wood chips or cobs to start the wood fire in the stove each morning. I helped gather eggs. I threw out food for the chickens and fed the kittens and cats milk. No matter how young or old we were, we had chores that we were responsible for every night and every morning. We did them without fail and with pleasure and joy. It saddens me now to see parents who pay their kids just to take out trash or make their beds or do other household responsibilities, when I believe everyone works together to make a home or family run smoothly. Making a family contribution has its own reward.

Mother used to say that there are two changeless sources of solid happiness.  First is the belief in God, and the second is the habit of hard work toward useful ends.  Amen, Mother.    

It is fresh peach time. What better way to enjoy them than this easy peach dessert.  Serve with ice cream and a warm butterscotch sauce. It brings back wonderful memories of a delightful,  but hard day’s work picking peaches in the orchard with wasps competing for the peaches.

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