A Labor Day Reflection…
Sometimes we seem to believe we are the first to face challenging issues, and no doubt there are many challenging issues in our day. Sometimes the challenges are very real. Sometimes they are perceived. Sometimes the challenges are a contemporary version of an old problem, just with different names and places.
The following poem was published in the 1913 Year Book of the Churches of Christ, a publication of that time by The American Christian Missionary Society. We know that publication today as the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) Year Book & Directory.
The particular places and kinds of labor immigrants do in our communities may be different now, but surely we can affirm the important role immigrants play in our history, and in our lives today. 1913 is not so much different than 2018.
I give thanks for one particular immigrant family who came to this country as refugees following World War II, the Ezerins Family from Latvia. Magnus served as the superintendent at Camp Christian for 30 years. He and his wife Aina raised two children in the two-story house at Camp. We have commonly called the house, which Magnus built, the Block House, simply because it is made from cinder blocks. I propose we name it the Ezerins House in honor of the immigrant family that built it and lived there for almost 30 years, while serving Camp Christian.
I am told that during the bicentennial year of the United States, Magnus built a new concrete sidewalk to the girls' cabins. On a Sunday morning that summer, Magnus invited the all campers and staff to a red ribbon cutting to open the sidewalk. He said to those gathered, "This is my gift to you, because this country saved my life.”
I AM THE IMMIGRANT
Since the dawn of creation my restless feet have beaten
newpaths across the earth.
My uneasy bark has tossed on all seas.
My wanderlust was born of the craving for more liberty
and a better wage for the sweat of my face.
I looked toward the United States with eyes kindled
by the fire of ambition and heart quickened with new-born hope.
I approached its gates with great expectation.
I entered in with fine hope.
I have shouldered my burden as the American man-of-all-work.
I contributed eighty-five percent of all the labor in the
slaughtering and meat-packing industries.
I do seven-tenths of the bituminous coal mining.
I do seventy-eight per cent of all the work in the woolen mills.
I contribute nine-tenths of all the labor in the cotton mills.
I make nineteenth-twentieths of all the clothing.
I manufacture more than half the shoes.
I build four-fifths of all the furniture.
I make half of the collars, cuffs and shirts.
I turn out four-fifths of all the leather.
I make half the gloves.
I refine nearly nineteen-twentieths of the sugar.
I make half of the tobacco and cigars.
And yet, I am the great American problem.
When I pour out my blood on your altar of labor,
and lay down my life as a sacrifice to your god of toil,
men make not more comment than at the fall of a sparrow.
But my brawn is woven into a warp and woof of the fabric of
your national being.
My children shall be your children and your land shall be my land,
because my sweat and my blood will cement the foundations
of the American of tomorrow.
If I can be fused into the body politic, the melting pot
will have stood the supreme test.
Grace and peace to all,
John M. Richardson
Interim Regional Pastor