We often hear that “the best program for fighting poverty is a job.” I agree. But for so many of those living on the margins of our society, a steady job that pays enough to support themselves and their families remains out of reach.
This Labor Day, as we take time to recognize the value and dignity of work, I cannot help but think of those who wish to labor, but cannot. They might be disabled, undereducated, an ex-offender, or simply down on their luck. Additionally, I think of the over 10 million Americans have a job, but are considered part of the “working poor,” and can’t make ends meet.
There will always be some members of our community who will need assistance from social service providers and the government to maintain themselves, and our local agencies do our best to serve them every day. But for those who just need a leg up or a helping hand, this Labor Day can be a reminder that we all have a part to play in ensuring our economy provides opportunity for not just some, but for all.
We can start by building intentional communities that support the unemployed or underemployed in their search for affirming and fair work; by ensuring that the children of the working poor and those seeking employment are cared and provided for; by pursuing criminal justice reform that helps those who made mistakes and atoned for them reintegrate to society, and; most importantly, by recognizing the dignity and worth of every human being by putting an end to what Pope Francis calls an “economy of exclusion” and following his summons to putting our talents to work by serving others, rather than merely ourselves.
As our economy continues to recover, yet so many are out of work and unable to take part in economic growth, let us spend this Labor Day thinking of and praying for those struggling to get by and how we can support them on their journey towards employment and out of poverty.