2015-09-04 labor day

More Than A Day Off

Labor Day has always held a complicated place in my heart; I love the mark of the change of the season, yet I mourn the loss of summer. The pause to show appreciation to the accomplishment of workers in America warms my heart especially when barbeques and fun gatherings or the last hurrah at the beach are included.  Yet, I despise the consumer exploitation of the push to part with my hard earned dollars (though, thanks to the special shopping warriors in my life, I’ve learned to love a good sale).

However, I am particularly frustrated this Labor Day, because there are so many people out of work, underemployed, or under the enormous stress of the changing workforce reality of doing so much more with so much less. And what about the self-imposed stress of constant connectivity. I am afraid that Labor Day for me is really a pregnant pause from exhaustion.

As one who counts it a privilege to work in social justice philanthropy and one with a typically sunny disposition, I refuse to be burdened. Instead I am choosing to take my hat off to those who work for the cause of others and hope that they too will take a moment to celebrate and acknowledge all that they do and why.

As sad as I am by the passing of giant Lynn Walker, just gone too soon, I am inspired by the life she led toiling in the courtrooms, and in the most impoverished communities in the South making a difference in the lives of the invisible in this country.

So, in honor of Labor Day I will use my shopping savvy to finally purchase I Am Malala, to shake off my woes because who can be down after hearing of her rise and courage. And I want to laugh too on this special day so I just might binge watch shows like Late Night with Larry Wilmore and Drunk History so I don’t take myself too seriously.


(Find out the history of Labor Day in the United States.)

Susan Hairston

Susan Hairston is Director, Office of Program Services, at the Ford Foundation. Follow her on Twitter @HairstonSusan.