In honor of today's Labor Day holiday, here are nine "interesting office facts":
1. Americans spend at least 1,896 hours a year at work.
2. One percent of U.S. employers allow employees to take naps during working hours.
3. Women business owners employ 35 percent more people than all the Fortune 500 companies combined.
4. No piece of normal-sized paper can be folded in half more than seven times.
5. When we think, we only use 35 percent of our brains.
6. A typist's fingers travel 12.6 miles during an average workday.
7. More people walk to work in Alaska than any other U.S. state.
8. "Stewardesses" is the longest word typed with only the left hand.
9. Refrigerating rubber bands makes them last longer.
Americans need today's holiday, since we work more than anyone in the industrialized world. We also take fewer vacations, work longer days, and retire later. And the trend is not positive. One expert concluded back in 1990 that we work nearly one month more per year than in 1970, and time pressures have only gotten worse since.
Oddly enough, the holiday intended to give us a day off was born not in tranquility but in conflict. Congress authorized Labor Day only after workers had demanded better wages and hours for decades. Riots and marches in major cities led to protests in the summer of 1894 that resulted in more than a dozen deaths. Congress quickly passed legislation that year making Labor Day a legal holiday.
In light of the stress most of us feel, how do we make today's holiday a holy day?
Henri Nouwen earned doctorates in psychology and theology. He taught at Notre Dame, Yale, and Harvard, and authored 39 books on spirituality. His works have been enormously helpful to me over the years. In Intimacy, he deals with "people's seldom articulated and often unrecognized desire for a real home in this world." He laments that "many find the church more in the way to God than the way to God." Referencing the "low whisper" by which the Lord spoke to Elijah (1 Kings 19:12-13), he encourages us to "be sensitive enough to feel the gentle breeze by which God makes His presence known."
We all need time to listen for that low whisper and feel that gentle breeze. On one occasion, Jesus' disciples were so busy that "they had no leisure even to eat" (Mark 6:31). His antidote: "Come with me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest" (v. 31).
I encourage you to accept Jesus' invitation. Set aside some time today for your soul. Get alone with your Father. Read his word; offer him your praise and thanksgiving; ask his Spirit to speak to your spirit. And know that he wants intimacy with you, for he made you for himself. St. Augustine was right: "Our hearts are restless until they rest in him."