Isn’t it just delightful that over Labor Day weekend we all go out and play? My wife and I certainly did. We took a camper into the hills on Friday night and came back only for Church on Sunday. We took hikes into the surrounding mountains with the dogs, we watched the sun rising on the trees around us, we cooked on the open fire and we spent an inordinate amount of time looking at one another, sighing and saying, “Isn’t it great not to HAVE to DO anything?” In fact, sometimes the urge to do something responsible was so strong it was work to fight it back. (I did succumb and cut some firewood to bring back…) Maybe that’s what is meant by “Labor Day.”
“Labor” is an interesting word. We use it to describe a woman’s work in giving birth. “Giving birth” is a gift to the child, the family and the future. “Labor” is what she goes through to do it. All good gifts are labor. They require effort. Even giving birth to leisure can be labor. At the same time, work can be fun, relaxing and recreating. Leisure is not merely the counterbalance to work, it is its complement, it’s completion. Without one there could not be the other, and we are always doing both.
In the Book of Common Prayer there is a prayer that has always struck me. It’s found in the service called Compline, meant to be said just before bed. It reads, “O God, your unfailing providence sustains the world we live in and the life we live: Watch over those, both night and day, who work while others sleep, and grant that we may never forget that our common life depends upon each other’s toil; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.”
Just as work and leisure make one another meaningful, if it were not for the community of individuals in our society neither work nor leisure would have much meaning.