Dr. Jamie Jenkins: Celebrating Unsung and Unnoticed Heroes on Labor Day

Do you know where Illegible, GA is located? Neither do I. Actually there is no such place.

In last week's Monday Morning I mentioned that Jonathan Norcross was instrumental in moving Georgia's state capitol to Atlanta. The computer corrected my spelling of Milledgeville. The results--Illegible.

I apologize to the residents of the fourth capital of Georgia. Milledgeville was named for John Milledge, Governor of Georgia. Situated on the fall line of the Oconee River, Milledgeville was chosen because of its central location and ample springs.

Names are important and attention should be given to saying and spelling them correctly.

Names identify and give significance. I remember when a basketball superstar in the NBA was traded, the media announced that he (by name) and an "un-named" player were involved in the transaction. Wonder how that "other" player felt since it was determined that he did not matter enough to identify?

Today is Labor Day, a day set apart to honor the ordinary folks whose work is essential to our lives. They are the people who rarely get the spotlight but without whom we would not have food on our tables, houses in which to live, clothes to wear, electricity to light and cool our homes, automobiles to drive, computers to connect to the world.

Our garbage would pile up on the street. The mail would not be delivered. Traffic lights would malfunction. Grocers' shelves would be empty. Pizza could not be delivered to our door. And the list goes on and on.

These people are not the barons of commerce. Although many are very generous, they are not wealthy enough to be called philanthropists but our churches and service organizations could not survive without them. These "anonymous" persons are essential contributors to our quality of life.

The U.S. Department of Labor says, "The vital force of labor added materially to the highest standard of living and the greatest production the world has ever known and has brought us closer to the realization of our traditional ideals of economic and political democracy. It is appropriate therefore, that the nation pay tribute on Labor Day to the creator of so much of the nation's strength, freedom, and leadership - the American worker."

As we celebrate the holiday we are also reminded of the persons in our churches that often go unnoticed. Without these "unsung heroes" candles would be unlit and anthems would not be heard in worship services. Sunday School and Disciple Bible Study classes would not have teachers. Babies would be untended because of a shortage of nursery helpers. Youth retreats would be cancelled there were not enough adult leaders. Worshippers would not be greeted as they entered the sanctuary. Care for the church building and grounds would suffer. Wednesday night suppers might have to be cancelled.

And what about our families? Who prepares the meals? Cleans the house? Does the laundry? Cuts the grass? Makes sure our cars are in good condition? Manages our finances? Takes out the garbage? Helps the kids with their homework? Runs shuttle service for soccer, karate, dance, and piano lessons, etc?

Labor Day reminds us that there are a lot of people who play important roles in our lives and are often taken for granted or completely forgotten. This is a good time to intentionally acknowledge them and honor them.

You might consider it a stretch but I think this is a broader application of the "body image" that Paul writes about in the I Corinthians 12. Although he is talking about the Church, the principle applies to life in general. "If one part of our body hurts, we hurt all over. If one part of our body is honored, the whole body will be happy." (v.26)

Make a phone call. Write a note. Say a word of thanks. Send a small gift. Give a hug. Pass on a compliment to management. Be intentional and pay tribute to someone who usually is taken for granted or ignored. They will be grateful and you will feel good.

Jamie Jenkins

[Taken with permission from "Monday Morning in North Georgia," Sept. 6, 2010. North Georgia Conference of the United Methodist Church.]