What Is Your American Dream? Part 2



Here in the United States, we recently observed Labor Day, a national holiday that celebrates our ability to work.

You and I are in the middle of a series on the American dream. What does a celebration of work mean in the context of your hopes, ambitions, and financial goals?

Let’s spend a few minutes discussing the Labor Day holiday in context of the American dream or—if you don’t live in the United States—what you are working toward as a Prosperous Soul.

How Labor Day Was Born

As the Industrial Revolution swept the United States, it brought both positive and negative elements. One of these negative elements was child labor.

Previously in the agricultural age, children worked side by side with their parents. Everyone had a job to do on the farm, and even at a young age, children were expected to carry out their assigned duties. The family worked together for about six days a week, and on Sundays they would stop for church.

This work ethic carried over into the industrial age, and the United States ended up with child workers, some as young as ten years old, who held jobs in dangerous environments. These children helped to build skyscrapers and lay railroad tracks. That’s some of the most difficult work a person can imagine, and there were no rules in place concerning workers’ safety. Some estimate that the average workday was twelve hours, and employees worked six days a week.

Out of these poor conditions, Labor Day emerged. The first Labor Day occurred in 1882 when workers in New York City gathered for a protest. However, they turned the event into a picnic and essentially took a break from the rigors of the industrial revolution.

Franklin Delano Roosevelt later signed Labor Day into law and constructed what we would consider to be the typical workweek:

Maximum number of work hours per day: 8

Maximum number of workdays per week: 5

Child labor ended, and workers began to ban together in unions that battled for benefits: pensions, vacations, healthcare, limited hours, better pay, fair wages. The employment laws we now take for granted were birthed in these difficult early years by pioneers who didn’t give up.

Your American Dream

With all these things in mind, what are you working toward as a Prosperous Soul? How would you define the American dream for you and your family?

Perhaps you want to own your home and be debt free. Maybe you’re looking toward retirement or striving to make a significant pivot in your financial life. Or perhaps you’ve been thinking about the legacy you want to leave for your kids and grandkids. All these things can be divided into two groups: what you already have in hand and what you are working toward.

This week, take a piece of paper and draw a line down the middle. Label one side “Today I Have” and the other “Future Wishes.” For two or three minutes, write out your American dream according to what you’ve already accomplished and what you are still working to obtain. If you’re doing this exercise as a couple, complete your lists separately and then combine them.

Does anything on your list surprise you? What do you feel are the key elements of your list? In my next article, we’ll take this exercise a little further.

In the meantime, God bless your Prosperous Soul.

Lauren Stinton