by Christine Sine
Last week in my post What Do You Have Trouble Naming, I shared some of the struggles that I, like many women, have been through over the years. I talked about my impressions of Joseph, wondering how he treated Mary. Someone commented, “I have always felt he was one of the unsung heroes.”; something that I am fully in agreement with. This time, as I reflected on this comment, I was reminded of all the unsung heroes in our world who make our way of life possible.
Today, we celebrate Labour Day in the U.S. and Canada, paying homage to reforms that moved work from seven days a week to five, made child labour illegal and improved working conditions. This year is a Labour Day like no other. Today, we particularly salute those unsung heroes of the COVID pandemic who have carried us through the last six months of anxiety and illness, many of whom never receive the recognition they deserve – people who stock shelves, check out groceries, drive buses, and sanitize hospital rooms.
I would encourage you to say a special prayer and, where possible, give a special thanks to these pandemic heroes especially to those who will spend the holiday working.
A Labour Day Like No Other
In past years, this has been a long weekend of parades, picnics, fireworks and other pubic gatherings. This year, for most of us it will be different as we endeavour to keep ourselves, our families, neighbours and communities safe from COVID-19.
One thing remains the same, however. This day has also become known as the official end of summer. We all recognize that it has been a trying and unusual summer with vacations cancelled and traditions changed. Most of us have worked hard to reorient ourselves and enjoy an at home celebration, making it a surprisingly special time. Acknowledging and giving gratitude to God for this, is, I feel, an important tradition that we might like to initiate this year.
Maybe you would like to spend time reflecting on Gerald Manley Hopkin’s Hurrahing In Harvest.
A New Reality is Coming
With the mornings becoming cooler and the sun set a bit earlier, many are turning their attention back to school or towards new jobs.
This is a tough time for parents and kids alike, whether they are learning remotely or in person. Its a good time to consider how you can reach out to those in the same boat, especially to those who are handicapped by lack of access to the internet or the disadvantages of out of date computers. If you aren’t directly effected, consider ways that you could support someone who is – financially, prayerfully or emotionally.
Work is also changing. Some are facing the reality of long-term remote workplaces. A corner “office” in the garage has become a permanent work space which hopefully can be adapted for more long-term use.
Others have lost their jobs and are in danger of losing their housing. Some are able to look for new career paths, but for others, like those in the restaurant and hospitality industry, there seem to be few solutions. In the U.S., unemployment is at an all-time high. So as we celebrate Labour Day this year, it is good to consider what we can do to help those who are vulnerable and may end up on the streets or living in their cars.
Remember and Anticipate
When I worked on the mercy ship, Anastasis, we had a tradition that I think is a good one to adapt here. When we were getting ready to leave a port, we held an evening meeting that we called “A moving of the ark” ceremony. We highlighted the joys we had experienced at the port we were about to leave and talked about the struggles. Then we talked about what we were anticipating in the port we were about to enter. At the end, we held communion. It was a wonderful way to transition into a new step of the journey.
I have done something similar as I look at God’s beautiful creation. I reflect on what I have most enjoyed about the season that is passing and what I am anticipating about the new season that is emerging. For example, I love the way the skeletons of the trees around me are hidden in summer but revealed as the leaves drop in the autumn.
I suggest that you get together with some friends, keeping a good social distance, of course, and talk about these questions.
- What have you most enjoyed about the last few months? What has been your greatest struggle?
- What are you looking forward to in the next few months? What do you think will be your greatest challenge?
We may not be able to hold communion this year, though a shared snack over Zoom or in the backyard might be a fun end to your celebration.
Everything is a bit different this year for everyone. We need to accept the changes we cannot control and look to whatever silver linings we might see on the horizon.
We will continue to face challenges and hope they will turn into new opportunities. We should also be inspired to create new traditions, forge new relations and make new connections. This is a time not for turning in on ourselves, but for turning out towards our communities and asking, What can I do for the least of these? What can I do to foster unity and strengthen the common good of my community?