Left Justified: Summer is over and livin' ain't easy

I hope you all had a wonderful Labor Day weekend. On the Waterfront was, I thought, the best ever, even with the riots concerning the button prices. Some people thought they could show up on Friday and buy a button for the whole weekend for 12 or 14 bucks. Surprise! They had to pay $14/day to get into the festival. It’s still a good deal, even at $20/day (I hope they don’t take that as a suggestion).

Rockford Urban Ministries (for which I work) had our mini Peace Store in one of the offices of the Luther Center. We sold fair-trade coffee, peace buttons, bumper stickers and T-shirts, and we advertised about our new Fair Trade store, which should be opening in November. It will be located at 201 Seventh St. We found the crowds courteous and supportive.

I know many nonprofits use this time to fund-raise and spread the word. With natural disasters like Katrina, we want to make sure people know how to help. My favorite disaster relief organization is Church World Service (CWS) with its CROP Hunger Walk, this year slated for Sunday, Oct. 16.

CWS is the umbrella organization for Protestant and interfaith relief organizations. Their specialty is overseas development, but they also respond to disasters in the United States, oftentimes helping those who fall through the cracks. They also send work crews to the affected areas, and already church groups from around the country are streaming into Katrina’s devastation. What happened to Federal Disaster Relief? Oh, yeah, Bush is in charge.

Our CROP Walk will have at least 300 walkers from area congregations raising money through sponsorships. So if you know of anyone who’s walking, please support them: that will increase the money going to Katrina relief. If you want to walk, you may pick up a sponsor record at one of the 40 Protestant congregations, or the Jewish Temple Beth-El. Or you can call me at 964-7111, and I’ll send you a sponsor record. (When we open our new office at 201 Seventh St., you’ll be able to just walk in.)

Speaking of opening new offices, I understand why people do not rehab older buildings in Rockford. The Building Department is a maze and can make demands that are confusing as well as costly. We have one of the best architects in the city, Dick Hynes, jumping through hoops that suddenly appear before him. Is it because we are a nonprofit group without any large financial backing? Is it because our neighbor does outreach to addicts and prostitutes? Is it because we did not get the seal of approval from his highness, Bill Mohr, at the Mid-Town District? Is it because our Alderman, Jeff Holt, doesn’t want us opening new businesses in his ward? I don’t know. If there is anyone out there who can help us, please do, because we would like to open our Fair Trade store to take advantage of the holiday shopping season.

And finally, this Labor Day weekend was a chance to honor those who labor for hourly wages. Many of us know the struggles to get decent wages, an eight-hour day and a 40-hour week. So we honor organized labor and thank them for the weekend. We honor organized labor and thank them for minimum wage and worker rights and health care. And we wish we had more so that we wouldn’t work ourselves to death.

In this world we only have time. Some are born wealthy, but the vast majority of us have only precious moments of life to offer in exchange for basic food, shelter, clothing and the magic of health care. As we labor, our time here on earth is spent. I believe God wants us to enjoy life and share love. But you might believe it’s OK to work for starvation wages, no pension, and no time off to be with friends and family.

The idea of our Fair Trade store is to offer a little bit of fairness to those who labor for us. The idea of Labor Day is to honor those who labor and make it better.

Stanley Campbell is executive director of Rockford Urban Ministries and spokesman for Rockford Peace & Justice.

From the Sept. 7-13, 2005, issue

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