By Kristen Leegstra
In North America, Labour Day is the “last day of summer”, the perfect day to have a barbeque, catch up with friends and family or even go to the beach. This national holiday however, is very different from the country of Jamaica. In Jamaica, Labour Day falls on May 23rd; prior to 1964, Labour Day was known as Empire Day which celebrated the birthday of Queen Victoria, until a bill was passed that created May 23rd as the national volunteering holiday. On this specific day Jamaicans from every community and town, take part in this national movement of generosity and giving. Together as a community they work together to clean roads, fill potholes, paint schools, and numerous other activities.
For this assignment I had the opportunity to interview my sister Natalie and her husband Justin, who was born and raised in Little London, Jamaica. My sister and brother in law mentioned that they have been in Jamaica many times on Labour Day and have been part of this special holiday. Natalie mentions that “it is a beautiful thing to see because these communities have such few possessions and few resources, nevertheless the towns still congregate together to finish the job.” The main focus of giving is that we do it for free and do not expect a gift in return, which is idealized completely in the country of Jamaica through their community contributions on Labour Day. Additionally, many individuals in the impoverished Jamaican communities do not have many possessions, regardless everyone comes together to do their part showing the genuine generosity this country has.
Oftentimes generosity and giving are hand in hand when it comes to acts of volunteering or philanthropy. The act of generosity is shown greatly in this annual tradition as many individuals have fewer resource, yet help each other in ways that make the biggest difference. If there is a person in the community who works with carpentry they will fix up the houses and schools, if someone is a painter they will use their resources to help paint the schools. From these examples we may see that despite the little materials they have they utilize their abilities for the benefit of others. This concept of having nothing but giving everything accurately captures the idea of giving as it is a selfless and loving act.
During the interview my sister mentioned that people in Jamaica are very enthusiastic about giving back to the community, and consider Labour Day as an exciting holiday, as the Jamaicans feel very rewarded helping their community. I believe that the mindset the Jamaicans bring to this act of giving is something that we as country need to adapt in our everyday lives. Our fast paced community would greatly benefit from acts of selflessness and giving as it is these acts that bring the community together and help us move forward. The Jamaican community can be an example for us in North America to question what giving is to us and how we can change the world around us by doing little things that make the difference. Countries such as Jamaica come from poverty and struggle, however, with volunteer opportunities such as Labour Day we are shown that the country is very rich in generosity and the act of giving.
Interviewee: Justin & Natalie Pringle ( Brother-in-law and sister)