There once was a nursing home in a small town.

You know how small towns are. Everybody knows everybody, everybody knows who’s in charge, so nothing ever changes, for so long that people stop trying.

You know how nursing homes are for nursing-home workers. Low pay, lots of needy patients, impatient or nonexistent family. Back-breaking labor turning over patients makes nursing-home work among the most dangerous of American jobs. It’s a job many take out of necessity. For some who persevere, it’s a labor of love.

I once went to a nursing-home workers’ speak-out. A proud, middle-aged woman, who happened to be Black, went to the microphone. She said, “I’m here for Mr. Jones, back at my home. No one cares about Mr. Jones but me. And Mr. Jones is gonna die if I don’t get some help up in here. That’s why I’m organizing the union.”

Back in the small town, that nursing home had a stupid rule. Workers weren’t allowed on premises after they clocked out. Not to see their friends, not to check in on their patients. The rule may have had a rationale, but it had neither rhyme nor reason. It did have a message, and the message was clear. When you’re off the clock, this is our place, not yours. So the workers never set foot inside unless working. It was a stupid rule, but they were afraid to break it, and they felt less of themselves for their fear.

Until they weren’t. The workers started to organize, and it was getting on toward Christmas. To have fun, to pull together, to show they cared for their patients even off the clock, they came Christmas caroling. Standing outside in the snow, they brought patients and families to the windows with “Here Comes Santa Claus” and “Silent Night.”

Then, they looked at each other, screwed up their collective courage, and made a spontaneous decision in the power of the Spirit to go inside.

Breaking The Stupid Rule, the little ragtag phalanx sang up and down the halls. They hugged their patients, and high-fived their families. Supervisors and administrators scattered before them like chickens, dumbstruck and dumbfounded in the face of happy defiance of their authority.

They won. True story.

The moral? Nothing stands between people on Mission and their mission. Not even a stupid rule, doomed to be broken in the fullness of time. Because change can happen when we try, even in a small town where nothing ever changes.

Labor Day is the official holiday of The Way of Mission. Happy Labor Day to working people on missions everywhere.

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