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This Labor Day no picnic for many people
Stehpen Ministry
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Labor Day differs in virtually every respect from the other holidays of the year. All other holidays are, more or less, connected with conflicts of dominance and reflections of man’s strife, retail greed, competition for power and of glories achieved over other people or nations.
Ever since Matthew Maguire, of Local 344 of the International  Machinists Union, and Peter McGuire, co-founder of the American Federation of Labor, first proposed the Holiday for workers 118 years ago in New York City, street parades and family festivals have sprung up all across the United States.
Labor Day is simply a celebration devoted to the social and economic achievements of American workers, rather than to any one person, entity, group, race or nation. This day — and the associated weekend festivities — is an opportunity to honor the contributions workers have made to the strength, prosperity and well being of our country and way of life.
Traditionally, Labor Day is celebrated by most Americans as a symbol of the end of summer. Public pools close, schools resume classes and, let’s not forget, mattress, furniture and car sales abound.
In many areas, the holiday weekend is filled with speeches by political candidates. It’s also seen as a last chance to get away for a short vacation.  On a happier note, Labor Day weekend typically is filled with picnics, barbecues, fireworks, arts and crafts shows and, my personal favorite, the start of NFL and college football season. But let’s not forget we still have a month more of baseball, and then the World Series — it doesn’t get much better than that!
But for thousands of people across this great county, this Labor Day will not be a happy, festive celebration of achievement. Instead, it is a  memory of years past and a stark reminder of the realities of today — layoffs, pink slips, job searches, not being able to provide for your family.
To those who are working, it may be hard to understand the pressure and stress that come with being unemployed — the sleepless nights, the financial strain, the damage to families and relationships, even for those who are grounded in faith.  On the other hand, of the many who are employed, more than one-third are in jobs they don’t like. Those workers must get up every day and do something they don’t enjoy in order to support themselves and their families. Still others live in fear their positions will be phased out because of budget cutbacks. This terrible economic situation is far from over.
To those who are not working, have been out of work for awhile, are out there looking for jobs with no success or for those who are under- or over-qualified, please understand these times test the patience, endurance, depth and mettle of every relationship.
Try to imagine being in a situation where your “future” is about what food might — or might not — be on the table tomorrow. What if you had to worry about whether your landlord would tell you  to move out — now? What if your electricity was turned off, the car repossessed or the house foreclosed on?  
Those are terrible scenarios, but the things that suffer most in times of stress are relationships.
Relationships with spouses, children and families start to unravel. Family members become argumentative and distant. After all, these times truly try the souls of men and women. But there is help, and it’s only a phone call away.
A Stephen Minister can make a difference. They are trained to deal with unemployment and job-related issues. They are faith-driven and know that God’s guidance does make a difference in every life, under any circumstance, no matter how rough the road may be.  
Sessions with Stephen Ministers are one-on-one, confidential and gender-sensitive. With God’s guidance, they will work with you to refine your job searches, get referrals and help you keep your relationships stong.
If you or someone you know could use the help of a Stephen Minister, call John at First Baptist Church at 320-7840 for an appointment.
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