Gratitude on a Rosh Hashanah Labor Day

Here in the United States, today is a rare occurrence of the first day of the Jewish holiday Rosh Hashanah falling on the same day as the US holiday of Labor Day. Labor Day is always the first Monday in September, which falls relatively late this year since September started on a Wednesday. The Jewish use a lunar calendar, so Rosh Hashanah varies from different days in our calendar of September and October. Since it is unusual for those two dates to align, it led me to trying to honor them both today.

Rosh Hashanah is the beginning of the High Holiday season for the Jewish faith. It is the Jewish New Year, which is celebrated both by looking back at the past year and making plans for the coming one. This is also a time for acknowledging things in the past year that you didn’t handle as well as you could and trying to make amends before Yom Kippur, the Jewish Day of Atonement.

Labor Day is mostly celebrated now as the unofficial end of summer. In the olden days, children went “back to school” the following day, although many if not most places, including North Carolina, have moved their school opening days to August. However, originally it was supposed to be a celebration of the contributions of American workers to our nation.

Therefore, I’ve been reflecting my experience from the season that is coming to an end and the role that US labor played in it. In short, today I’m focusing less on barbecue and more on gratitude.

I had some wonderful times this summer. Among my highlights were:

  • getting to see my beautiful young niece get married in Williamsburg, VA
  • swimming in the ocean and participating in a spiritual retreat in Oak Island, NC
  • visiting my 94-year-old father (and some wonderful art and history museums) in Washington DC
  • seeing my son return to his beloved college in Greensboro, NC after a year and a half of doing only virtual classes from home
  • experiencing the Immersive Van Gogh exhibit (and two other beautiful art museums) in Charlotte, NC

I’m very, very thankful for having been able to do all that this summer, since about the only places I went the summer before were my spiritual center, the grocery store, occasional lunches with friends held outside in local parks and such, and the outdoors Cary Downtown Farmers Market, which became not only a source of delicious organic-ish local food, but the social highlight of my week. As I think back, those highlights would not have been possible without the support of many, many workers in jobs that are often unheralded.

My first thanks go to the people who vaccinated me and my family. If I and all the people I lived with had not been vaccinated, I would not have felt safe doing any of my highlight activities above. In my case, that involved dozens, if not hundreds of people. I went to a drive-through vaccination held at the PNC Sports Arena that was SO well organized. I was expecting to wait in long lines of cars, but it was actually only 12 minutes after we drove onto the parking lot that I got the shot in my arm. The reason was that there were SO MANY people there assisting. There were older people who stood and directed traffic, there were others that checked paperwork, more that separated us between those getting their first shot and their second, and young people who were runners between the different stations, which were a good distance aways from each other. Once I got to the shot place itself, there was more paperwork checking and someone with medical qualifications who actually gave me a shot through the window. Then we drove to a waiting place to make sure I didn’t have a reaction, where a fire officer arranged for my second appointment and EMT personnel were prepared for any problems. There were so many people involved, and they were so diverse in terms of age and ethnicity (the fire officer making my second appointment was a male African American, while the woman who gave me the shot was wearing a hijab). Everyone was so friendly and positive and efficient that it made it all such a lovely experience.

That alone is my image of Labor Day 2021: “average” Americans of all kinds working together to vaccinate their neighbors to make our country safer from the ravages of the coronavirus. So my first and foremost thanks go to all those people, whether in drive-through sites like mine or doctor’s offices or pharmacies or drug stores or pop-up clinics or where ever all over the country (and the world, because we’ve seen how globally connected we really are), who worked selflessly to reduce the number of COVID cases in their communities.

If you were one of those people involved in the vaccination efforts, thank you.

Next, traveling to other parts of the country meant staying in hotels and eating at restaurants. That was only possible because low-paid workers not only did their usual work of housekeeping or cooking or serving, but put extra effort into cleaning and sanitizing and maintaining social distancing. I know many of these people work for less than minimum wages, especially those in many restaurants who rely on tips from a certain volume of customers, which they can’t count on during these pandemic times. I have always been a fairly generous tipper at hotels and restaurants and such, but I tried to give even more this summer. I know the job comes with more risk these days, particularly in restaurant work where servers keep on their masks, but their customers don’t when eating or drinking.

If you work in the food or hospitality industry, thank you.

People working in the arts also typically receive low wages. Still, in Richmond (on our way to Williamsburg), Williamsburg, Washington, Raleigh, Cary (our local community), and Charlotte, we visited museums and art galleries that inspired and uplifted us during these difficult times. While the restaurant workers fed our bodies, those of you who open and operated your arts facilities, along with the artists who created the beautiful things we saw, fed our souls.

If you work in the arts, thank you.

Of course, most of the summer we were at home most of the time. But even that required the efforts of so many.

To the grocery and other store workers and the truck drivers who kept the stores filled, thank you.

To the post office workers and those in other delivery services that made it possible to get what we needed at home, thank you.

To the artisans on Etsy who made the beautiful masks that made wearing masks constantly a little nicer, thank you.

To the sanitation workers who hauled away the junk we released from our homes, thank you.

To all the people who are involved in making Zoom and Google Meeting and YouTube Live and Streamyard and all the other online services actually work, which were often the only ways to meet and connect and get work done, thank you.

To all the wonderful farmers in all the many farmers markets across this land who sweated all summer to provide us with healthy local food to keep our bodies strong and healthy (with, of course, a special shout-out to the Cary Downtown Farmers Market farmers), thank you.

So this Labor Day, this end of summer, this retrospective time, these are just some of the laborers who contributed so much to making this a wonderful summer for me despite the difficulties. I wish I knew all your names and could acknowledge you all individually. But I hope, either from reading this blog, or just sensing it energetically, you know today how very much appreciated you are.

Thank you for all that you have done and all that you continue to do. You make a difference. Your work helps make this world a better, happier, healthier place.

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