Do You Have Room for a Labor of Love?

A banjo-playing mummer struts his stuff in the annual Mummers Parade in Philadelphia.

By Linda Hart Green

New Year’s Day was special for my brother and me. We spent the whole day with our dad. He worked many hours as a sole proprietor of the family business. On New Year’s Day, we had him to ourselves. Our tradition was to go to the Mummers Parade in downtown Philadelphia which was just a few miles away. Our mom didn’t care for crowds or parades and she was happy to see us go. We would rejoin her for dinner at a Chinese restaurant owned by a friend of my dad’s. My younger brother’s unwillingness to try Chinese food back then is a topic worthy of another commentary! I won’t embarrass him in this one. Let it be known that he grew up to be a retired USAF colonel who has traveled and dined around the world.

If you are not familiar with the Mummers Parade traditions, it is like Mardi Gras in New Orleans without floats but with string bands. The costumes are fantastic! My dad loved it when the string bands played their theme song “Oh, Dem Golden Slippers” and the Mummers did their “strut,” which is a traditional way of walking while pumping arms in the air, hands outstretched. The term “Mummer” comes from German and means “to pantomime, costume or masquerade.” The tradition of costuming for fun, mockery and satire goes back to the festival of Saturnalia.

Speaking of the costumes, they are brightly colored and adorned with sequins and feathers, feathers, feathers. A fancy brigade costume can weigh up to 100 pounds and is balanced by a frame on the mummer’s shoulders. The parade lasts all day and contains several performance venues along the route. The parade officially started in 1901 as a city-sponsored parade, but Swedish immigrants in the 1600s were the first to bring the parade tradition with them. Irish and Italian immigrants added their cultural flairs over the years. Note that Mummers are predominantly men who dress so extravagantly. My brother and I went to these parades throughout our childhood. We were taken to the parade by my dedicated Christian father who read the Bible daily. No harm was done. This aspect of the story could also be its own commentary topic.

Like the clubs in New Orleans, the mummers brigades work all year on their costumes. As soon as the next year’s theme is announced, they gather to plan and get to work. There is prize money involved, but the costs far outweigh what can be won. As one group captain reported, “It is a labor of love.” Creating, sewing and practicing together form strong bonds of friendship and community.

We are about to enter a new year. That prompts me to ask:

What labor(s) of love will you undertake?

Where will you work together with others to form strong bonds of community that benefit both you and our community?

What, if anything, in your life needs to go so that you have room for a labor of love?

I agree strongly with the saying that where your heart’s greatest desire meets a need in the world, there you find your calling. I first learned of this saying when reading Frederick Buechner’s book, “Listening to Your Life.”

I highly recommend it. I bought copies in bulk for my church office and gave them out freely to those who came for counseling for their life’s direction.

I used to think that serving the needs of the world required sacrifice and feeling miserable for God! When I was young and missionaries visited our church to tell their stories, I fervently prayed that God would not call me to the mission field and require me to wear my hair in old-fashioned braids! The interesting part of that equation was that I had an inkling of a calling at a very young age. I was also aware that one of the only routes to fulfilling that calling for a girl was to be a missionary.

A true labor of love makes your heart sing! You will still get tired and have periods of frustration. Most of all, you will gain the contentment of being in the right place at the right time. That place can and will change with the acquisition of skills and experience and the needs of various times in your life.

Many places in our community would benefit from your labor of love, if they are a good fit for you. It is perfectly okay to try out a few and see what works. We are richly blessed with resources, both human and natural. We can let go of any rancor or fear that divides us and help each other find our place of joy and belonging.

Have a happy and fulfilling 2024.




1 Comment
Newest Most Voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments

Richard Lamken
Trusted Member
Richard Lamken(@ralamken)
3 months ago

Well said, Linda.

One of my favorite quotations is:

The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others.
Mahatma Gandhi

There are currently many opportunities to serve our brothers and sisters in Nassau County. The Baptist Medical Center Nassau Auxiliary and Barnabas are two that could use your time and talents.

May His blessings be showered on us throughout 2024!