The United States Congress, by vote in 1894, declared that Labor Day would be recognized as a legal holiday. It is a day to celebrate the right to work and the privilege of working. At the present time, we have millions who are unemployed. They are without a job and millions more make it on food stamps and other forms of government subsistence. We can pray for change and for renewed hope.
The present poor economy is not as serious as the days of the Great Depression of the 1930’s and yet without government and charitable support, it would be close to that. Most Americans believe in the importance of having a job and being able to support themselves and their family.
The first 17 years of my life I lived in a small coal mining community just two miles from the head of Cabin Creek, an area approximately 22 miles long beginning at Cabin Creek Junction, on the banks of the Kanawha River, about 15 miles east of Charleston, WV, the state’s capitol city.
We had a two room white wooden schoolhouse (grades primer through fourth), no indoor plumbing or running water. The amazing thing about those childhood days without television and one small church building in each community, we never felt poor.
Mining was done by going back into the side of the mountain and working underground all day. Strip mining and mountain top removal mining are now very common.
The well-known leader of the United Mine Workers of America, from 1920-1960, was John Llewellyn Lewis, born February 12, 1880, in Cleveland, Iowa, the son of coal mining immigrants from Wales. He died on June 11, 1969 at the age of 89 in Alexandria, Virginia.
In my 17 years living in a coal mining community, three pictures were prominent in the homes of the people – pictures of President Franklin D. Roosevelt, John L. Lewis and an artist’s conception of what Jesus may have looked like. These were the three most important people of mining families.
Labor Day in a mining community usually featured a full scale “Safety Meet.” Each mine had its own safety team. At a “safety meet”, the men demonstrated their skills in treating any accident in the mines.
It was also customary on Labor Day that there would be a baseball game in the afternoon. Most mining companies or communities had a baseball team.
This weekend in the area of West Virginia where I live, at Scott Depot, midway between Charleston and Huntington on I-64, there will be a wide variety of activities such as vintage car shows, crafts, Civil War re-enactments, the 62nd annual West Virginia Gospel Singers Convention at Mt. Nebo, programs on and along the rivers, Bluegrass music, the West Virginia Symphony and dozens of other celebratory events.
All across America the hope is that within the coming year, there will be a definite move to put all of America back to work. We will not experience prosperity by going deeper in debt.
Jesus nailed it with these words, “I must work the works of Him who sent Me while it is day; the night is coming when no one can work” (John 9:4).
Perhaps the greatest theologian of the last 70 years, Carl F. H. Henry, skilled in writing and impeccable in scholarship, whose friendship I will forever treasure, wrote, “The duty of work implies the right to work. A society in which joblessness prevails should consider the provision of constructive work a prime concern.”
We can all pray for a man in authority who can do as God did, create work for all to do that will be a blessing to others.