“In all affairs, it’s a healthy thing now and then to hang a question mark on the things you have long taken for granted.” Bertrand Russell

I often take for granted the blessings I enjoy. Since today is Labor Day I thought it fitting to remind myself how blessed I am to be living and working in America in the 21st century.

On September 5, 1882, 10,000 workers, organized by the Central Labor Union, marched from City Hall to Union Square in New York City. Their demand? A “workingmen’s holiday.” This became what we now celebrate as Labor Day.

The industrial revolution made manufacturing the backbone of our economy. Instead of an agrarian society, America quickly become a wage-labor society. The early history of this transformation was not something we should be proud of. Back then the average worker often toiled for 12 hours a day, seven days a week, just to secure a basic standard of living. Child labor was commonplace and safe working conditions were rare. The labor movement arose as a response to these realities.

If you were born during this same time you had a very high chance of dying before your first birthday. Infant mortality was very high, as was the rate for women dying during childbirth. Being a child during this time was not the carefree, “explore your world and get to know who you are” time it is now. Children often worked starting as young as 7, and child labor wasn’t really stopped until well into the 20th century.

So, the world is a better place today? Well, parts of it are. We are very blessed to be in America. Here in the USA, if you make more than $35K a year, you are in the top 1% of wage earners worldwide. Worldwide. The global median income is less than $2K. We have access to health care, education and recreation at a rate that is many times that of most of the rest of the world. We enjoy peace and prosperity at a fairly broad level unknown to most of the people in the world.

My aim here is not to make us feel bad for what we have, rather it is to encourage us to be grateful for the blessings God has given us. Maybe in the future we will look at Labor Day not just as a holiday or the “official end of summer” (I promise to stop wearing white now), but as an opportunity to thank God for how wonderfully He has provided, not just our needs, but most of our wants too.

After all, it is healthy now and then to hang a question mark on the things you have long taken for granted.

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