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Honoring Labor Day with Kids (or: Why Labor Day means more than the end of summer)

I grew up knowing the smell of coolant. The slightly sweet smell that betrayed long hours spent in a machine shop was comforting to me. It was accompanied by hands whose cracks and crevices were stained with grease no matter how long they had been scrubbed. These were the same hands that picked me up and dusted me off when I fell off my bike and tucked me in and said prayers with me when I went to bed at night. The smell of coolant and the grease stained hands meant that my parents were home. Their work was hard and it took its toll on their bodies. Despite this it filled them with pride. This was a gift they gave to me that it took me many years to fully understand. They taught me that labor should be seen as dignified and all workers should be valued. It is this lesson that has kept me tied into movements for worker justice to this day. 


Over Labor Day Weekend our worship services will be a part of a nation wide movement called "Labor in the Pulpit." This is a time when we lift up the dignity of labor and stand in solidarity with workers who are fighting for their rights and well being. To truly commemorate Labor Day we hear stories of workers. 


While we adults may have a tendency to think worker justice issues are not issues for kids--let us not be fooled. Kids get this. They get our UU principles that affirm that each and every person is important and that we are called to offer fair and kind treatment to all. They also get that what happens to the adults in their lives impact them. Standing with workers seeking their dignity is also standing with their children who are learning that their lives have dignity.


I invite us to also take time to ask for the stories of the children among us. Certainly we can have conversations about what they would like to be when they grow up. But let us also ask what it is like for them to be NOW as children of adults who are workers. Let us help them to start to pay attention to all of the workers that make their day happen--and in doing so they will help us be attentive and grateful for those around us.

Here are four ways you can engage your kids or kids you know this Labor Day (and all year round):

1) Ask them to put on a play or draw a picture of what you or their parent/guardian(s) do for work. Have them explain what their play or drawing is telling you. 

2) Work with them to create thank you notes for those who labor (for example the custodian at their school, the person who delivers the mail. . .)

3) Read the Story for All Ages from our service this week Click, Clack, Moo: Cows that Type together. Check out some of the creative resources available here to explore the story further.

4) Get involved together in an action for worker justice. Check out our connection with our partner organization Interfaith Committee for Worker Justice to find out how.

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