September 6, 2020
It seems to me that Labor Day is our least celebrated national holiday in America today. Most people look at this holiday as just another three-day long break from work and don’t reflect on what it means and why we celebrate it. Some people think of it as an unofficial end of summer. Older people may even remember and observe that it’s the last day to wear white clothing, etc. for the year.
But let’s take a few minutes to see why it’s an important celebration in American history. Grover Cleveland was the president who declared Labor Day a national holiday in 1894. It was a move started by Peter Mcguire who was involved in starting labor unions for carpenters and other hard-working tradespeople.
Too often today, people don’t think about the hard labor that made America what it is now. I especially think of the hard workers who built the transcontinental railroads stretching from coast to coast. I think of the farmers, the factory workers, the oil field drillers, coal miners, and many other jobs that were hard, sweaty, dirty, and dangerous. I could compile a long list, but you see what I am leading up to.
First, let me say that all work is honorable and necessary for the survival of our economy as a country and to provide for our families. As I took notes for the preparation of this post I thought of my family history of workers first. I’m more familiar with my family than anyone else’s. But as I began making some observations about my family, please don’t quit reading as I am certain you will see some of the very same things in your family history too.
I can only rely on my memory about my family and I can only go back as far as my grandparents on both sides. I won’t try to be specific in telling what all of my grandparents and parents did in their work to provide for their families. But I will say that all my forefathers and foremothers worked very hard on physical, sometimes grueling, and dirty jobs.
But all of my ancestors were very much interesed in doing whatever it took to provide for their families. Sound familiar? Keep reading then.
I guess I was the first Plumley male to have what is often referred to as a white-collar job as I had been through seminary and ordained as a pastor. But I hate that label or anything else that divides God’s people by some category. Labels make some people feel inferior and other’s exalted. That’s wrong.
I see a lot of this stupidity today. For example, I don’t need to deal with rich athletes, beautiful movie stars, and many other professions. But I do need quite often the services of my trash collectors, my mechanic, my doctors, and nurses, etc. A few weeks ago I needed a plumber for a simple repair. I got one to come to the house for $100.00 per hour. Noy a bad wage for a blue-collar worker. Do you see where I’m going? All jobs are important to society.
When my family was young, in addition to my pastoring, I also ran my own plumbing company. I was a master plumber in Arkansas, Texas and Louisiana. That’s where the bulk of my income came from at that time. Several years later when my boys were about 7 and 10 years old, they were in a grocery store with me where I had gone to pick up a few things for Sandra who was too busy to go get them herself. I was just getting ready to check out when I heard the boys laughing at something. I asked them what was so funny? They didn’t want to say it out loud so they just pointed at a man in the next line getting ready to check out himself. What I saw made me very upset with my sons and I told them all about it when we left the store. They had pointed at a man whose clothes were very dirty and wet as it appeared to me he had just gotten off work. I told them I was ashamed at the way they laughed at the man in dirty clothes. I said, “John Paul, when you were a baby, Sandra often gave me a list of baby food you liked and wanted me to pick it up for her at a supermarket in Texarkana, Texas before I drove on home 40 miles away.” I said I was plumbing then and often I would be dirty when I went to the store. I told them I was often looked at as being inferior and that I always despised such things. I told them the milkshake I promised them when we finished shopping was out. They both remembered that story for years.
I once asked my Grandmother Pansy Plumley why she didn’t retire as a nurse when I knew she was old enough to draw social security? She said she loved her work and that it made her feel she was serving God doing valuable work that fulfilled her very much. Then she said, “Work is one of the most valuable gifts God ever gave to humans.”
My Daddy was the hardest working man I ever knew. And he wanted his children to know how to work too. My late younger brother, David, and I used to get so upset with Daddy for not letting us sleep late on weekends even though we didn’t have anything we had to do. I never questioned Daddy about things he wanted us to do. But one morning David asked Daddy, ”Why can’t we sleep late and then get up and watch cartoons?” Daddy sort of blew up. He said, “Because I said so, that’s why. But it’s mainly because I love you boys and I don’t want you to grow up being lazy and not knowing how to work.” We both never forgot that.
I guess Daddy’s rationale was right because all four of his children all worked hard all their lives. I guess we owe that to our Daddy who told me he had learned it from his Daddy and Mother. One time Daddy even told David and me that he had read somewhere in the Bible that it said if you don’t work, neither should you eat. I preached from that text many times as a pastor.
So Monday, let’s celebrate Labor Day whether you are a bricklayer, a doctor, or anything else that puts food on your family dinner table and meets your other needs too.
God bless and thank the hard-working men and women who made America great. And thank God for the opportunity to work.
God Bless you,