Labor day is a secular holiday, but a Humanist one. It should be recognized by Unitarian Universalists as part of the ongoing development of our faith; Labor day is fundamentally tied to our values and the Principles of the UUA.
Labor Day isn’t just a day off. It is a day to celebrate people who fought, bled, and even died so that we could build a better quality of life. Labor Day commemorates a movement that won us the weekend, 8 hour works days, and workplace safety regulations. It created the quality of life fondly remembered as “The Middle Class”.
Labor Day isn’t about hard work and rugged individualism; it is about team work and community. It is about people coming together to build and create and lift each other up; people fighting together to build their communities and their countries. Labor was a movement by the people and for the people. It recognizes that all people are valuable and worthy and deserve to be respected.
Consider the most used substance in infrastructure: Concrete.
Concrete would not be as strong, stable, and moldable without all the components in the right ratios; it needs the limestone, the sand, the gravel, and something, like rebar, to give it structure. All those parts can be shifted to change the properties, but they must be balanced or it all comes apart when the weather gets harsh.
And so it is with most human efforts. We evolved to be in community and build on one another’s successes. Like the invention of concrete itself, none of our work today would be possible without the inheritance of inventors and pioneers, many of whom are now lost to history.
We don’t even know who invented concrete!
Humanity is better, stronger, for our diversity. Each of us makes the whole better through our unique experience and perspective. Working together, for one another, makes sense. We cannot guess the possible value of a person by their physical or mental capabilities. Brilliant minds can inhabit bodies of any health and ability. Inspiring stories do not require great intellect. Even if all a person cannot but smile, they can change the world in small but important ways.
Because we are all intertwined, we cannot predict the impact of any one person. Each of us touches lives each day, and that contact changes each of them to a degree we don’t often understand. All labor matters, then, and how it is done is important. Whatever your work, do it with dignity and respect for your fellow humans. Every person you serve, cooperate with, or lead deserves consideration.
No human is ever alone in their work.
The social nature of our species means we do nothing on our own. We each build on the labor of generations past. The very words we think in are the result of a culture built on social interaction and cooperation. Each of us is worthy of dignity and quality of life so we can give our best to the world. That is our inheritance and our most important legacy. That is what we celebrate today.
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