“Without labor, nothing prospers.”– Sophocles
“Nothing will work unless you do.”– Maya Angelou
A day off is a good thing.
With ten such holidays here in the United States we might envy nations who offer more. Cambodia leads the world with 28. Sri Lanka is not far behind with 25. India and Kazakhstan each hold 21. But a closer look at the countries on this list reminds us there may be no need for jealousy; Cambodia and India have a six-day workweek; Sri Lankans work a half-day on Saturdays. Maybe that second day of weekend 52 weeks of the year is a better deal.
Most nations co-mingle civic holidays with the religious – in some cases multiple religions.
Truth is, in today’s world a day off is intrinsically such a good thing – so important to rest and recovery and family relationships – that we often struggle to remember, respect, and observe a given holiday’s origins and deeper meaning. We may have a nominal 40-hour workweek, but for many knowledge workers those hours expand and extend into evenings and weekends. We may agree on very little in our country these days, but most of us feel we’re overworked. (Studies and comment on this abound.) So we gratefully accept what’s offered – a day to rest and recreate – and perhaps reflect less than we should on the help indigenous people provided the first European settlers as they struggled to survive on the American continent; or the risks colonials took when declaring their independence from Europe; or the soldiers who gave (and continue to give) their lives that we might maintain and enjoy that freedom; or the unique and endearing contributions of several key individuals, including Dr. Martin Luther King, presidents Washington and Lincoln (and their 40-some peers); the arrival of the Son of God in human form…
…or the struggles of laborers to enjoy basic human rights commensurate with their contributions to society – fair pay, reasonable hours, job security and more.
Some form of a “labor day” is observed in most countries. Here in the United States, Labor Day came about from the rise of the labor movement – including the birth of unions as a means for workers to exert political influence.
Turns out that meteorologists are right in there with everybody else. Our community features at least one union – the National Weather Service Employees Organization. If you’re not familiar with them you might consider taking a few minutes today to visit their website and explore a bit; it’ll give you the flavor of the organization and the concerns of its members. A few minutes spent this way will get you in touch with the meaning of the day.
Some closing reflections. First, meteorology and its impacts form a background to all this. Thanksgiving is a harvest celebration. Christmas and New Year’s coincide with the shortest days of the year. Memorial Day and Labor Day provide bookends to what is called “the cultural summer.”
And second, meteorology provides essential services even over the holidays. Today meteorologists are vigilantly ensuring public safety in the face of weather hazards (including, for example, keeping an eagle eye on Tropical Storm Gordon), providing the support needed for aviation (including all those holiday flights) and other forms of transportation, supporting the operations of the energy sector, and much more.
Labor Day – and meteorologists are at work – in the military, across civil government agencies, and throughout the private sector.
Good job, everyone!