Sunday, August 31, 2014

Labors of Love

Labor Day ... marks the unofficial end of summer (but no excuse to stop using your sunscreen!) and the welcoming of the Fall season. Not only is it celebrated with cookouts and a 3-day holiday but tons of sales, sales, and more sales! According to Wikipedia, Labor Day "is a celebration of the American labor movement and is dedicated to the social and economic achievements of workers."

Okay, so we have a holiday to pay tribute to the American workforce and economic achievement, and don't get me wrong, working for a wage and being financially stable is important ... but does everything have to be about making a buck? What about a long weekend designated to celebrate  "labors of love"?

I define labors of love as meaningful actions that you do with no financial compensation, and we could come up with a long list of those. Giving birth (the true meaning of LABOR), raising a family, being a loving and patient caregiver to an elderly parent or a loved one with illness, adopting a pet, volunteering ... all extremely important although none makes us wealthy.

We have probably all performed many labors of love throughout our lives, but there is still time to do so much more ... and so much more is needed.

There are small labors of love that are simply random acts of kindness that we all should remember to do ... smile at a stranger, say thank you to a store clerk, call or send a card to someone who would be cheered by just knowing you are thinking of them, take a meal to someone who is sick or grieving, hand a cold bottle of water (in summer heat) or a cup of hot chocolate (in winter cold) to your mailman, make a donation to your favorite charity. The possibilities are endless, and they truly make a difference to someone's day!

But I'm really thinking of larger labors of love that take more effort and time and commitment ... plan or participate in a fundraiser, donate blood, volunteer at a nursing home or hospital or school or animal shelter, become a coach for a kid's sports team or a leader for a scout troop, teach a Sunday school class. Get the idea?

I've always been a little (okay, a lot) obsessive about volunteering ... so much so that my efforts were acknowledged with the Volunteer of the Year award in my community of Plano, TX, many years ago. I didn't set out to be so involved in our schools and community; there's just so many wonderful projects that need (wo)manpower that I couldn't resist. Volunteering can be addictive!

When my only daughter Jaime died from melanoma 7 years ago, that following week I did what I swore I would never, ever do. I became a melanoma advocate and the indoor tanning industry's worst nightmare. Watching her struggle with this evil disease, I had thought that once her fight was over, I never wanted to hear the word melanoma again. But over the 9 years of her journey with this cancer, it is what I had come to know and experience, and what I had come to hate ... and something I didn't want other families to have in their lives.

So melanoma advocacy has been my constant labor of love since my last labor of love as Jaime's caregiver ended. I didn't choose it; it chose me. Some think I do this to heal ... but if you have ever lost a child, you know that you can never heal, no matter what actions you take or don't take!

To be honest, I don't even particularly enjoy this labor of love that has attached itself to me, especially as I shed tears watching wonderful people die (too often young adults) and friends and families suffer on what seems like a daily basis. I question why I do what I do when I hear the lies and deception that comes out of the indoor tanning industry and sun worshipers. I scream when I hear the false reasoning of many state legislators regarding the protection of their youth from tanning bed use. I beat my head against the wall when I hear the excuses coming from schools about why the kids can't bring sunscreen to school or wear hats when outside. But this is MY labor of love so I keep doing it, hoping to make a small difference, ... and I will continue to do so until I am no longer able or until melanoma no longer exists.

But you have lots and lots of choices for your own labor of love. Don't worry about "what's in it for me," because what you get out of your labor of love will be so much greater than what you put in ... even if you can't take it to the bank.
Just pick something already, something you are passionate about or have a curiosity to learn more about. Maybe even step out of your comfort zone and try something challenging. You can't fail and many can benefit. Don't wait for a designated holiday ... make the effort to participate in a labor of love as often as you can!

 Melanoma Mama (Jaime's mom, Donna) (Remember Jaime) (Jjem Creations) (Jjem Creations)

1 comment: