The Work of Your Hands
As the summer winds down and the vacation season draws to a close, for a sizable number of us, September ushers in the routine of school and work that will define the next nine months or so. It is therefore fitting that in this nation we mark September by celebrating Labor Day.
For many of us, Labor Day is an opportunity to gather with family and friends to enjoy barbecues, swimming, water sports, fireworks, ice cream, and more. Along with the Fourth of July, Labor Day is a quintessentially American holiday, flavored with civic pride, recreation, and tradition.
But what, really, is Labor Day all about? According to the U. S. Department of Labor, “Labor Day, the first Monday in September, is a creation of the labor movement and is dedicated to the social and economic achievements of American workers. It constitutes a yearly national tribute to the contributions workers have made to the strength, prosperity, and well-being of our country.” Originally developed over the course of several years at the turn of the 19th century, it is easy to see how the industrial revolution that had put the country on a rapid trajectory toward flourishing, due to the sheer power of the workforce, could give rise to such an impulse. Given the shift from the industrial revolution to the technical revolution, the word labor now encompasses a much broader conception of work. Whether your work is in the field of industry, education, technology, childcare, farming, helping, business, or medicine, Labor Day presents each of us with an opportunity to pause and contemplate how to best flourish in our work.
What does it mean to flourish? Basically, flourishing involves a purposeful development of capacities and relationships, through virtue, vocation, and related practices that aim to dignify the person. To flourish in work is essentially about dignity. Undoubtedly, some will read this and wonder what kind of dignity exists in scrubbing toilets. During the many years I spent working as a mother and homemaker, the laundry, dishes, toilets and floors seemed to present a never-ending stream of drudgery, which made these chores more taxing. Then a dear friend offered me the image of a much different perspective, of doing the dishes as a sacred act whereby I was preparing the vessels for breaking bread. Dignity arose in acting out of this perspective vs. labeling dishes as a mere chore. This shift in thinking made an enormous difference in how I viewed my work as contributing to the flourishing of my family. The work of my hands were specifically contributing to the nourishing and flourishing of my family.
We are a community of people uniquely created to both flourish individually and in relationship. We are meant to be part of the bigger picture. Whether you love your current work or not, how can you experience a sense of flourishing at the work of your hands? How may you understand the important contributions that you make? This Labor Day, I encourage you to consider how you are or are not flourishing in your work, and take the opportunity to search for and appreciate the dignity in it. If you’d like to further explore your own flourishing in your work, family, and relationships in general, I’d love to hear from you.
Courtney Lipscomb, LPC Intern #82251
Supervised by Leah McDill, PhD, LPC-S #13143
Office: 512-238-1700, ext. 319
Work cell: 814-647-1194