Tuesday, May 1, 2018

The Many Meanings of May Day

So, how will you be celebrating this first day of May?  Will you weave ribbons around a Maypole?  Will you go to a demonstration in favor of worker's rights?  Will you bring a bouquet of flowers into the house?  Will you sing "Solidarity Forever" or "L'Internationale"?

I imagine that most of us will go to our jobs on this fine May Day.  Well, those of us in the U.S. will go to our jobs, if we still have jobs.  May Day is a holiday in many other parts of the industrialized world.

In my elementary school in the 1970's, we had a May Day celebration that focused on flowers and Maypoles, not on workers.  Looking back, I'm amazed that our teachers were able to rig together a Maypole.  We spent weeks practicing the weaving of the ribbons in the Maypole dance.  We had a whole Mayday festival.  Parents came.  There was a Mayday king and queen.

Ah, those good old pagan school days!

I have spent most of my life in climates where Spring came long before the first day of May.  In fact, in most places I've lived, Spring has shifted into Summer by May 1.  But summer flowers can be as beautiful as spring flowers.

My inner Marxist would want me to give up all pagan celebrations of beauty.  My inner Marxist would demand that I transform the workplace.

How I wish I could.  My inner Marxist and my inner 19 year old have amazingly simplistic ideas of how the world works and how much power individuals have.  That's why I both love my inner Marxist and my inner 19 year old and find them frustrating.

And yes, it can get a bit crowded in my head.

But let's think about some ways to celebrate May Day, even if there's no time for a Maypole and even if we think we can't transform the workplace.

--May Day is often a celebration of flowers.  Why not buy some?  Buy a pot of petunias or hydrangeas or whatever brings you joy.  Water them every few days, and you'll have joy for weeks.

--We think we can't transform the office, but maybe we sell ourselves short.  Say thank you more often and see what happens.  Focus on your gratitude for what your job brings you and watch your attitude shift--and maybe the larger attitude of the workplace too.

--Send some money to organizations that work for worker's rights.  I'm impressed with the Coalition of Immokalee Workers, which works to protect the migrant workers in the fields of Florida, but you certainly have plenty to choose from.

--Can't afford to make a donation?  Write letters on behalf of the unemployed, the underemployed, everyone who needs a better job or better working conditions.  Write to your representatives to advocate for them.  What are you advocating?  A higher minimum wage?  Safer worksites?  Job security?  Work-life balance?

 --Send your creative work out into the world.  As you make your submissions, think about the ways you'd like your creative work to bloom.

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