Monday, September 5, 2016

Labor Day Prompts Thoughts of Meaningful Work

--Labor Day dawns.  Will you spend today putting away your white clothes and your sandals?  I will not.  I wear sandals year round, and I have one white skirt that I'll wear until October or November.  But I am old enough to remember a time when we were not allowed to wear white to church after Labor Day.  It was just not done in the traditional states of the U.S. South where I spent my childhood--even though the hot weather would continue well into September and October.  Back to school meant that feet went back into closed shoes--no more sandals.

--Even though many of us will see today as simply a day off, it's a good day to think about work, both the kind we do for pay and the kind we do out of love.  And what about the work we feel compelled to do?  I'm thinking of that kind of documenting of family history, of cultural history, of all that might be lost without our efforts.

--I'm thinking of Vertamae Grosvenor (who in later years used the name Vertamae Smart-Grosvenor) and her death on Saturday.  I first became aware of her in the late 80's or so, as I learned about her important work in documenting and preserving the culture of the Lowcountry islands off the coast of South Carolina and Georgia.

--Her work also made me think of my own heritage as something worth preserving.  For example, as I've watched people discover kale, I've thought of winter fields, like the ones my grandparents and great-grandparents would have tended, those winter crops, sold for so much less than they might sell for now.  Someone's getting rich off of kale, but it's likely not farmers like my ancestors.

--To get a sense of Vertamae Smart-Grosvenor's authentic voice, listen to this piece on NPR's Morning Edition.  And do be sure to listen--you need to hear her voice.

--I will spend much of today getting ready for a justice event, God's Work, Our Hands, that my church will have on Sunday, September 11.  I'm in charge of helping people work on quilts for Lutheran World Relief.  I need to prepare some bindings for the quilts.

--I also spent some time completing some mandatory trainings.  Perhaps I will write more on this later.  Or perhaps I'll try not to ever think of it again.

--I will be grateful for the work I have that nourishes me.

--If you're in the mood for some substantial thinking about the issue of work, particularly in theological terms, I recommend this article.

--It's interesting to think about the way that a Benedictine/monastic approach would reshape the questions that we ask about work:  "Taking Benedict’s approach would force us to reconsider how we think about our work. Instead of, 'What work am I called to?' we might ask, 'How does the task before me contribute to or hinder my progress toward holiness?; Not 'How does this work cooperate with material creation?' but 'How does this work contribute to the life of the community and to others’ material and spiritual well-being?' Not 'Am I doing what I love?' but 'What activity is so important that I should, without exception, drop my work in order to do it?'”

--These are good questions for Labor Day--or any day.

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