A prayer for Labor Day

Published 10:56 am Friday, August 30, 2019

Monday, the U.S. will honor those who work for the common good of this country and for the well-being of all people.

This day set aside to honor American workers came about in the late 1800s at a time when labor conditions in this country were horrid.

Most folks worked seven days a week, 12 hours a day just to make ends meet. Children as young as 5 were working in mills and factories.

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This was a time when agricultural ventures were eclipsed by urban industry and people organized for protests and riots because of their working conditions.

A labor parade in New York City was organized in 1882 by more than 10,000 workers taking unpaid time off to march to Union Square from City Hall.

The first Monday in September became a national holiday in 1894.

A work ethic was always present in my family.

On Dad’s side of the family, my grandfather worked in advertising in New York City after his service in World War I; and my grandmother drove an ambulance during the war.

My mom’s dad served in World War II, then worked as a train conductor at Grand Central Station.

My father, after serving in the Air Force during the Korean War, worked for General Electric as a home repairman, then as a customer service executive. My mom worked as a NYC photographer, secretary, babysitter and in a needlework store.

I started receiving a paycheck early in my life. I had two paper routes, was a babysitter, YMCA coach, Arby’s cook, florist and lansdscape laborer, lifeguard, flooring installer, auto shop cleaner and driver, liquor store clerk, hotel night auditor, university library manager, deli waiter, beach resort bellboy, catering bartender, public radio announcer-reporter-director and Episcopal priest.

Through all of this, I’ve always seen work and labor as a gift.

That sounds strange, especially when you’re doing something you might not like all that much, or real back-breaking work, or if you think your work might be insignificant in the grand scheme of things.

I’ve always seen it as just a part of living together in community, everyone pitching in to do something for the common good of all of us.

A Prayer for the Unemployed

Heavenly Father, we remember before you those who suffer want and anxiety from lack of work. Guide the people of this land so to use our public and private wealth that all may find suitable and fulfilling employment, and receive just payment for their labor; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

A Prayer for Labor Day

Almighty God, you have so linked our lives with one another that all we do affects, for good or ill, all other lives: So guide us in the work we do, that we may not do it for self alone, but for the common good; and, as we seek a proper return for our own labor, make us mindful of the rightful aspirations of other workers, and arouse our concern for those who are out of work; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

Jim Trimble is Priest-in-Charge at Emmanuel Episcopal Church in Winchester, and can be reached at fatherjim.emmanuel@gmail.com.