Labor Day 2019 was yesterday. Labor Day honors the achievements and contributions of the American workforce and is traditionally observed on the first Monday in September. It was created in the late 19th century by the labor movement and became a federal holiday in 1894.

Did you spend yesterday laboring? When I was a young boy, Labor Day was a celebration in my hometown of Magna. It was a day off for the men who worked at the copper mills, the smelter, and the refinery. The unions combined for a day of fun and food down at the Magna Community Park. A little train with its own locomotive was operating, and there were races and games for the young folks. A baseball game was held between our local team and a team from Bingham or elsewhere in the valley. Since my dad was a union official, he got us some free tickets for various events, and we spent the day with fun and games. No “laboring.” School began soon after. Now schools begin at various times of the year, depending upon the district — with most classes starting in late August.

I cherish the days I taught 6th grade in Granite District at Webster School, the same school I attended. I’m still in touch with one of my students, Jill, and we email regularly. My next teaching position was in Scottsdale, Arizona. I made considerably more money there, and I also worked on my master’s degree at Arizona State University. It was blasted hot in the summer but very pleasant in winter and spring. One of my students, Billy, had an IQ score that classified him as a genius. It was a challenge to keep him interested in school. Conferencing with his parents let me know they didn’t know how to handle him at home, but we grew to understand each other. I prepared lessons and work for two classes that year — one for Billy and another for the rest of the class.

I look at school attire now and wonder a bit. I don’t understand why kids like to buy “new” pants that look shredded? I think they might just go to DI, bring them home, and do the shredding themselves. I can hear Jane telling me, “Now Jay, it’s just the way it is. Let it go. What difference does it make to you, anyway?” She often sets me straight.

I suspect “teaching” is very different from when I taught in public schools. Devices of all kinds are utilized, police officers patrol the buildings, and computers are part of the learning process. I hope libraries are, too, and that library books still exist. I have to admit that more and more with each passing year, computers and computerized “everything” seem to dominate. I buy my books and even some medications online and also find answers to questions instead of looking things up in an encyclopedia or dictionary. “It’s a whole new world,” as a current song states.

Some things about this whole new world concern me. Although I admit I’m an old man, perhaps I’m a voice which some may read or pay attention to. One example is “vaping.” We seem to have finally realized as a population in general that smoking cigarettes or cigars is a fundamental step toward cancer in the lungs or other organs in the body. Sadly, now there is vaping. With some, it’s “the thing to do.” When Jane and I drive down the road, we often see clouds of smoke coming out of car windows as a group of teens drive by. Surely that can’t be a healthy thing to do? According to Wikipedia, repeated exposure over a long time to e-cigarette vapor poses substantial potential risk. Although companies state that e-cigarettes are safe, there is no scientific evidence to support this view. Long-term data showing that vaping is a “healthier alternative” to cigarette smoking does not exist.

As I read this over, I think it may appear that I am overly concerned about the next generation. That is certainly not my intention. I am certain that young people today are brighter, better informed, more polite, and just plain more “with it” than I was at their age — at least the young people I know. Perhaps the good Lord saved the “best for last.” They are stronger in their convictions of right or wrong, in standing up for good over evil, and just seem wiser and more mature as the years go by. There’s a great article in September Reader’s Digest about a sixth grader who brings joy to seniors by granting their most sincere wishes. It’s entitled, “Kindness Genie,” by Claire Nowak.

While you’re at it, read “Laugh Yourself Smarter.” It says, “Thanks to new scanning technology, scientists are discovering that humor may be the healthiest thing our brains can experience. E.B. White once wrote, “Humor can be dissected, as a frog can, but the thing dies in the process.” That might not be true after all. The article includes research findings that humor helps the human race survive by increasing the odds that the smartest and most creative people procreate. In Milwaukee, for example, some nuns are in the beer business. This year, the School Sisters of St. Francis opened a summer beer garden to raise money for clean-water projects in Peru and India. Among their top sellers: a pale brew called Ale Mary. It will not help you lose weight though. Sorry, if that’s your goal.

So, don’t worry, be happy. (Remember that old song? The lyrics are easy to recall!) Laugh yourself smarter. Humor builds brains. Now watch a funny show on TV, read a funny story, or tell a clean funny joke. Have a good day, and do your best to help someone else have the same.

Jay Monson is a former educator, and also served on the Utah State Board of Education, Cache County Council, and Logan City Council. He may be reached at monson.jay@gmail.com