Labor Day was born out of the days of long ago when the average worker was underpaid, worked 12 hours or more per day, and the abuses of child labor were rampant. Manufacturing was quickly replacing the agricultural sector as the new source of employment. This was fertile ground for organized labor to rise. The labor movement created this holiday to bring light to the contributions of the average worker and to celebrate their importance to the American economy and way of life. It became a federal holiday in 1894. But it also symbolizes the end of the summer for many Americans and is celebrated with cookouts, picnics, parades, retail discount sales and back to school activities. This weekend in Oak Bluffs a new meaning was added to this holiday — Labors of Love.

Gretchen Coleman Thomas is waiting for the call to have her kidney transplant but needs to demonstrate to the hospital that she has sufficient cash on hand for her post operative expenses. Some of her friends started musing about how they could assist Gretchen in reaching her goal. Gretchen Tucker Underwood organized “Gretchen’s Angels” all of whom committed to giving or raising $1,000.

Carleen Cordwell and Caroline Hunter created the “Songs for a Sister” show at the Portuguese American club last Thursday night. Well over 150 people wrote checks and listened to old school music pouring love on Gretchen Coleman. Between music sets, her sister Joycelyn took to the microphone and emotionally thanked the crowd for showing so much support. She thanked individuals for coming out and singled out The Cottagers and the Polar Bears for their institutional support.

Responding to a standing ovation, Gretchen addressed the overflowing and exuberant crowd. She began by asking those who grew up with her enjoying the summers of their youth on the Island to wave their hands. In thanking all in attendance she wanted to express her gratitude for those that did not know her but came because they thought her cause was worthy. Responding to the power of the event, some like Sharon and Frank Redd significantly increased their donation. David Edmonds, long time OB resident, summed up this wonderful night: “This is the Vineyard family showing up and supporting one of its own.”

Cheryl Grimes, Stephanie Browne and Carolyn Hebsgaard have responded to the drastic needs created by the devastating floods and massive displacements in greater Houston, and they too held a Party for a Purpose. Where else but the P.A. club on Saturday night. Folks down for the day, down for the long weekend and those closing out their long summer stay paid $10 to contribute to the Red Cross Fund for Houston Relief. Many wrote checks for amounts exceeding the entry fee and others gave $20 and sought no change. The dance floor was full most of the night with the DJ blasting Sisters With Voices (SWV), Ledisi, Bruno Mars and other popular artists. Movie stars, professional entertainers, athletes, Patriots owner Robert Kraft and other very public figures have all made significant contributions to those in need in Texas. But thanks to our three “social entrepreneurs,” Oak Bluffs will be listed on the scroll of those caring and displaying labors of love too.

Adrienne Hayling and son Les, Jr. hosted over 100 on the grounds of their sprawling East Chop property paying tribute to the recently passed family patriarch, Dr. Les Hayling, Sr. This larger than life figure was hailed by neighbors, friends from New Jersey, members from all of his social and fraternal clubs and organizations, Howard University alums and many more. Close friend Walter Lowe served as the Masters of Ceremony for the afternoon of stories, history vignettes and small talk about a man who lived a full and complete life. But the labor of love came from four couples who have known the Haylings for many years — Bill and Peggy McCoy, Herb and Nellie Thomas, Woody and Vivian Holmes and Bobby and Yvonne Mann. The ladies were known as Les’s Angels, and worked tirelessly in preparing the cuisine for the celebration. Lobster, crab and shrimp salad all “labor” intensive food delicacies provided the center piece for this scrumptious luncheon. The afternoon also provided an opportunity to view the design and interior of the new renovations and construction recently completed on the Hayling cottage managed by Les, Jr.

The most important labor of love can come only from the birthing process for a new born. Grandmother and Vineyard social media and marketing guru, Kharma Finley-Wallace announced the birth of Grayson Ari Finley-Davis. Her grandson was born on August 14 to Jamir Finley-Davis and Christina Brown in Maryland. When baby Ari joins the Finley clan in OB for Thanksgiving he will become the fifth generation of Finleys to dip his toes in the Vineyard sand. Ewell and Mildred Finley, Howard University classmates of Sen. Ed Brooke, began this family’s magical relationship with Oak Bluffs. Karen and Skip Finley were followed by Kharma, then Jamir and now Grayson Ari. Congrats to all.

In thinking finally about the pain and suffering that often accompanies the labors of love in each of these situations, I was reminded of the 1970’s singing group Maze, featuring Frankie Beverly. One of their most popular songs was “Joy and Pain.” Gretchen has suffered immeasurably with her dialysis treatment over the past five years. Her joy came from the amazing turnout for her fundraiser soon to be followed by her new kidney. The devastation from Hurricane Harvey has wrought pain on the residents of Houston only to be overpowered by the tremendous outpouring of financial support and resources from many Americans helping them get back on their feet. The loss of a loved one like Les, also inflicts family and friends with pain. His Angels and the celebration of his life’s journey has provided some balm to the pain. And the most excruciating pain of childbirth vanishes when a mother hears that first cry from the newborn clearing out tender lungs.

“Joy and pain are like sunshine and rain. The ones you care for give you so much pain. Oh, but it’s alright they’re one in the same. Listen, don’t it seem we go through life going up and down. Seems the things that turn you on turn you around. When the world is down on you love is somewhere around.”

The lyrics say it all. Happy Labor of Love Day.

Congrats to Rev. Larry Green for a wonderful closing sermon at Union chapel this past Sunday. And thanks for reading my columns this summer. I have thoroughly enjoyed this assignment and I will write my final column for this season following the Columbus Day holiday.

Paradise on earth is the Vineyard experience. Enjoy it as life is fleeting.

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