By Walter Brueggemann
We are again at our annual moment to honor labor, to remember those who do hard work, to recall tales of depression poverty, to wonder at our economy.
As we remember, we are aware that “labor” today is surrounded by hostile euphemisms – downgrading, outsourcing, minimum wage, 401(k)s – all strategies to cut costs, with the result that laborers are put at more risk, all the while we indulge in endless extravagance.
We are mindful on this day:
• That most hard labor in our country is performed by people who may not be like us – African Americans, Hispanics, people who lack our advanced skills and connections, and who settle for being labor that is cheap, while food and housing continue to grow more expensive;
• That we are here because our mothers were in labor for us, loving us before we were born, available for inconvenience and for pain, and as we grew . . . for worry in the night.
• That there is other work to be done, what Jesus called, “my Father’s work” – healing the sick, caring for the poor, casting out demons, doing the hard work of justice. We give thanks for those who do this.
On Labor Day, with most of us so privileged that we do not sweat unless we play tennis or jog, give us fresh perspective on our labor, that our lives consist in more than earning and eating, in making and selling, that our lives consist in the hard, urgent work of the neighborhood.
Empower us as you did our mothers that we may birth new well-being, that neighbors may live in justice, that we may know the joy of compassion that overrides the drudgery of our common day.
We pray in the name of Jesus, from whom we know your own self-giving life, for we gladly confess that “no one works like him.”
Written by theologian and biblical scholar Walter Brueggemann and taken from his book Prayers for a Privileged People.
Recommended Off-site Links:
Labor Day Reflection: Catholic Bishops Speak of Dignity of Workers, But Continue Call for "Right" to Discriminate - William D. Lindsey (Bilgrimage, September 4, 2010).
For Labor Day, Church Should Embody Its Social Teachings - Richard O'Brien (National Catholic Reporter, September 3, 2010).
Notable Quotes from Catholic Social Teaching on the Theme of Work and Workers' Rights – Office of Social Justice, Archdiocese of St. Paul-Minneapolis.
Workers' Interfaith Network
The Real Lesson of Labor Day – Robert Reich (RobertReich.org, September 3, 2010)
A Lament for Labor Day - Danny Schechter (CommonDreams.org, September 5, 2010).
A Labor Day Commitment to the Common Good - Jim Hightower (Creators.com, September 4, 2010).
Honoring Those Who Toil - Ralph Nader (CommonDreams.org, September 3, 2010).
FDR's Labor Day Plea Resonates Today - Sarah Anderson (CommonDreams.org, September 3, 2010).
See also the previous Wild Reed posts:
Just Wondering . . .
A Lose/Lose Situation
The Pope's Progressive Agenda
May Day 2007
Capitalism on Trial