By J. Magdangal M. De Leon
When we think of Labor Day, what usually comes to mind? Scenes of workers
marching and joining rallies, making speeches demanding higher wages and better working conditions.
In fact, other issues are raised, such as increasing oil prices and electric rates. Who else to blame for
their sorry plight but the government, and the heartless capitalists who rake in huge profits from their
sweat and toil? In short, this day is marked mostly by expressions of complaints and dissatisfaction.
But there are two aspects about Labor Day that are worth pondering, and serve to
infuse it with a deeper meaning.
First, we should be grateful that we are permitted to work. It is a great blessing
that we are employed or engaged in some occupation or business that enables us to support ourselves
and our families. Indeed, we are fortunate that because of our labor, we have the means to be
relatively free from financial worries.
Second, we must have gratitude for the work of others. Without the labor of other
people, we cannot fulfill our missions in this lifetime. The food, clothing and shelter and other things that
we need for our survival and enjoyment of the good life are the products of the industry and work of an
almost endless number of individuals.
For instance, the food on our table is the culmination of a long chain of hard work
and perseverance of other people. Think of the farmers who plant, tend and harvest the grains, fruits
and vegetables; the livestock raisers and fishermen; the enterpreneurs and factory workers who help
process into foodstuffs the harvests from land and sea; the people, including the vehicle drivers and
helpers, who bring these goods to market (if the goods come from abroad, those who make the ships
sail and the planes fly, and, in that connection, those who transport the goods to the piers and airports);
the market and grocery vendors; the people who bring the goods to homes and restaurants; those who
painstakingly prepare and cook the food for our consumption; those who set up the table and serve the
meal, insuring that we eat in comfort; and those who tidy up the table and wash the utensils after a
So we may appreciate the clothes, linens and other accessories that we use, think
of the farmers who cultivate the plants, like cotton, from which are derived natural fibers, as well as
those who convert oil and coal to synthetic fibers; those who spin them into yarn; those who weave
or knit them into cloth or textile and give them patterns and colors; those who design and make
clothes and similar items; those who bring the finished products to the stores; those who sell them;
and those who launder them.
Lest we forget, our places of abode, work and recreation could not have been
built without the people who make materials such as roof sheets, iron and steel, cement (including
those who quarry gravel and sand), lumber and plywood, paints, glass, electrical and plumbing
fixtures, etc., and the engineers, architects, contractors and workers who helped erect them. Also,
we are indebted to those who make furniture and housing accessories, as well as decorative items,
without whom we will have nothing but bare structures. Since modern living is not complete without
appliances, we thank their manufacturers, who make our lives comfortable. What about our cars and
other means of transportation? We tend to take them for granted and fail to appreciate those who
manufacture them, not realizing that less than two hundred years ago, people were still riding in
horse-drawn carriages. Vehicles are useless without roads, so we think of the people who design
and build roads, tunnels and bridges. Of course, the raw materials that are used for all our machines
, appliances and gadgets, i.e., minerals and petroleum, have been extracted, refined and processed
through the labor of people. Without metal and plastic, we will have no computers, cell phones and
cable tv, and the satellites that make the internet and global intercommunication possible. It is the
same oil, as well as natural gas and other sources of energy, that produces the power that keeps our
homes and buildings lighted, cooled and heated and our machines, including our cars, working.
As to our work, we need office supplies. Paper and related products are
indispensable to the performance of our functions. We acknowledge the invaluable labor of the paper
manufacturers, and integral thereto, those who harvest the wood to make the pulp as raw material
for paper making, as well as those who make the myriad office items, like pencils and pens, that
altogether contribute to our efficiency. Worth mentioning are the book authors and publishers, and
the inventors of facilities that make our research work more expedient.
In fine, this interdependence among millions of people is what keeps society
going and is the linchpin of social progress.
Ultimately, our gratitude reaches the Almighty, who created everything in the
universe. Humans cannot create even a single grain of rice. We can only process or manufacture
things from the raw materials provided us by nature, so we can grow, flourish and prosper
according to the Divine Plan.