Labor Day. Together.


“You need to give me an overview of which way we are going.” Jane is driving. I am crocheting yet another hat in the seat next to her.

Driving makes her feel a little more secure and in control.

There are a few sermons in this. About perceived control. About knowing where we are going. But I’m not thinking about these.

I’m thinking about the challenge, from my new editorial consultant, to come up with a theme for a newsletter to be published on Labor Day–today. I want to write about unions and how we’re stronger together. So I’m next to Jane ruminating on it. That’s what Jews, especially rabbis, do. Fixate.

Drives Jane crazy.

“Keep on 84 until 205, airport exit, but then over to Washington. And then east for a while.”

Interrupting the silence that is rare, new, and delicious in our car, I turn to the back seat. “Kiddos, do you know what Labor Day is about?”

I calculate that in their combined 22 years, they have never seen a picket line.



Are they extinct or endangered?

Do my kids remember how my teacher paycheck in L.A. was cut as my union was forced to pay for administrative negligence? Or how exasperated I was upon learning that my Catholic high school, like all aspects of the Catholic church, had legal religious exemption that prevented workers from unionizing?

Deep in my heart, I hold these seven words dear: The people united can never be defeated.

Our blue Subaru Outback slows dramatically, almost stopping in the right-hand lane. We creep at about ten miles per hour.

“Mom, get into the left lane,” a high-pitched backseat driver advises.

Jane stays in the long line for Exit 9, which will take us toward Washougal, Washington, to a midsummer baby shower for Emmett and Annie’s former kindergarten teacher.

I enjoy sitting in the exit lane’s traffic–cars whizzing by on our left. Counting the ratio of people waiting in line to the very few who cheat up and cut over makes me happy.

Doing the right thing is one of my love languages. It’s not one of the original five. I added it.

Right then, Jane connects doing the right thing, not changing lanes, and Labor Day.

“Kids, let me explain why we are going to this baby shower. We are going because life is hard, and when we get the opportunity to celebrate life, we ought to.”

I add the Yiddish word simchas–happy occasions.

We don’t change lanes because the good of the group, our fellows on the road, comes first. “Life is hard” means we don’t get to do exactly what we want.

(I want to be at home, out of these fancy party clothes. I wonder if I’m the only one.)

“Yeah, it’s the Yiddish word simchas,” Jane summarizes, picking up the one word I uttered. “It’s joy. That’s why we do it. Because it’s joy.”

After a moment of silence, I consider sharing how this relates to Thomas Aquinas. But as Annie has been on my case for “sounding like a rabbi,” I don’t.



The fifth article of Thomas Aquinas’ The Summa Theologica deals with “whether carnal sins are of less guilt than spiritual sins.

His answer:

“The smaller the temptation, the greater the sin.”

He’s right. But it’s weird.

’Cause we think it’s the other way around.

We think that buying Nestlé products–assuming you are anti-child labor, unethical promotion, manipulating uneducated mothers, pollution, price fixing and mislabeling–is not as bad as murder.

But, no, says Aquinas. It’s worse.

Drinking a Perrier or San Pellegrino is less kosher than eating prosciutto and melon.

Nestlé makes money off the following brands of water:
Acqua Panna, Arrowhead, Deer Park, Get Delivery, Ice Mountain, Nestlé Pure Life, Nestlé Splash, Ozarka, Perrier, Poland Spring, San Pellegrino, Zephyrhills.

The smaller the temptation, the greater the sin
Sneaking a cigarette is more tempting than beating the mailman to death with a stained-glass lamp. Therefore, it is a bigger sin.

Until writing this article, I have never I fantasized about bludgeoning Douglas with leaded vitreous. It’s not on my short list of temptations. But offer me a smoke or that I don’t have to go to this baby shower. Please.

Going postal on a postal employee? Not tempting and, according to Aquinas, small sin.

Toll House cookie or the piece of Nestlé Kit-Kat Bar you broke off for me?

Hella tempting, therefore, big sin. And, I’m avoiding them.

Being virtuous ain’t easy.

This rabbi’s list of Nestlé brands ethically un-fit for eating:,_confectionery_and_baked_goods


This Is Your Labor Day

I’m going to take up my rabbi voice–the one my daughter teases me about: WE NEED TO STOP LETTING THE SMALL THINGS SLIDE.

Stop putting yourself and your needs first.

Stop blaming the world outside for your irritation.

Stop making excuses for not treating this world as though your every action matters.

Stop pretending that occasionally eating at Chick-fil-A doesn’t make a difference.

The People United Can Never Be Defeated.

When enough of us make enough small changes, when enough of us stop taking shortcuts, when enough of us celebrate as much life as we can, something will change.

This is what Labor Day ought to be about–prioritizing the collective. Making a commitment to be excellent.

Pick up some trash that isn’t yours.

Wait your turn on line.

No more Pellegrino or Perrier.

Recommit now. Labor Day.


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