For making resolutions, for giving thanks, for celebrating national independence, for giving gifts, for expressing communal pride, for asking forgiveness — for just about everything important. Add in birthdays, and there are even special days for receiving gifts.
Remind me: what is Labor Day for?
Of course, it’s for the commemoration and appreciation of the people who have built this country and economy (such as it is) with their hands, heads, and hearts.
If we need a reminder of what they sacrificed, consider the 1911 Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire.
Now For Something Completely Different.
I have another suggestion for how to observe Labor Day.
Since Labor Day has become less about labor and more about friends — in the backyard, holding hot dogs — let’s take Labor Day even farther in that direction.
Let’s make Labor Day the day each year that we go to work (the hard labor of) assessing which of our friends are worth keeping and which ones we should — quietly, kindly, firmly — jettison.
This might sound sad and heartless to you. Jettison a friend?
But what if you and your friend have grown in such different directions that you aren’t well suited as friends any more? What if that friend brings you down? (I’ve already written a little about that.)
We need friends who bring us up, who lift us so that we can become our best selves. Anyone else is either a project (someone we are trying to help) or a corrosive influence. Projects are fine. But if he or she is a corrosive influence, it’s time to cut him or her off — and choose a new friend.
Choose a friend?
Early in life, friends are the people with whom we play t-ball. Later, they are the people who are coincidentally stranded with us in an elevator. Or seated together on an airplane. Or placed together in a dorm room.
To be sure, they might be good friends to this day.
But, now that we are adults, it makes sense to occasionally choose a friend.
It’s an obligation.
In Chaim Potok’s The Chosen, we learn that we each have two obligations each year:
- Acquire a teacher
- Choose a friend
How do we know who might make a worthy friend? Worthy friends are people who are like we want to be. (I’ve also written a little about this.)
Another take on the subject.
Whatever your politics, Joseph Kennedy is a fearsome example of a person operating with intention.
And, with nine kids, he needed to do something harder than choose a friend. He needed to assess his kids and choose from among them. In the new autobiography by the newly late Ted Kennedy, here are his father’s words to the young son:
You can have a serious life or a nonserious life, Teddy. I’ll still love you whichever choice you make. But if you decide to have a nonserious life, I won’t have much time for you. You make up your own mind. There are too many children here who are doing things that are interesting for me to do much with you.
This is hard talk from a father.
But it seems like a minimum standard for choosing a friend. (Sure, we want more than seriousness in our friends. But the complete absence of seriousness is a disqualification.)
What are your standards for your friends? Who won’t make the cut this Labor Day?