Labor Day has become a tribute to the workers who have contributed to the prosperity of America.
Over a century ago, workers sometimes as young as five or six years old endured long hours, dangerous working conditions and low wages. Workers had no security in their jobs and no recourse to seek better employment. This prompted rallies and strikes by labor unions demanding employers provide a better work environment, increase wages, limit hours and protect the rights of child workers. On Sept. 5, 1882, 10,000 workers marched from City Hall to Union Square in New York City in an effort to bring more change and awareness to the issues they were facing. Finally, by June 28, 1894, Congress made Labor Day a national holiday for workers.
Despite the holiday’s tumultuous origins, it can provide an opportunity to show young children the value of work.
“Having the opportunity to work and use one’s God-given talents allows children to feel purposeful and fulfilled, similar to how adults feel when they find a career that plays to one’s interests” says Dr. Catherine Muzzy, principal of the parish school at St. Edward the Confessor in Dana Point.
Parents can sometimes feel that distractions get in the way of helping their children learn important lessons.
“In a society that provides instant gratification, it takes a dedicated effort to share with students that hard work is an ongoing, challenging and sometimes frustrating endeavor,” says Julie Tipton, principal of grades three to eight at St. Junipero Serra School in Rancho Santa Margarita. “The learning and growing that take place in the process makes a student more appreciative, empathetic and more self-aware. The accomplishment is important, but the integrity and commitment are the long-standing benefits.”
Carol Reiss, principal for preschool to grade two at St. Junipero Serra School added: “Putting kids in difficult but doable situations can help them experience the feeling of success. Giving kids praise for effort, even when they aren’t successful, and encouraging them to try again is key to learning perseverance, an important life skill. Also encourage children to pray and ask God for help when they need it, as well as model hope in the Lord that He will see them through the toughest of times.”
The Bible can also be used to show how their work praises God.
“A verse that speaks of building treasure in heaven from our work on earth can be found in Colossians 3:23-24, ‘Whatever you do, do from the heart, as for the Lord and not for others, knowing that you will receive from the Lord the due payment of inheritance, be slaves of the Lord Christ.’”
Dr. Muzzy explains that “scripture focuses us on the service and work we do for others as a means of fulfilling what God wants us to do.”
Catholic school students throughout the diocese are required to participate in service opportunities as part of their faith formation.
“The stewardship type program is for our students to give back to the community for what we have received,” says Sally Todd, associate superintendent of the Diocese of Orange.
At St. Edward the Confessor, the community gathers every year to host a project with Kids Around the World to prepare meal pouches for parts of the world where severe hunger exists.
Parents can help children be a part of projects like this by reaching out to their parish or charities in their community.