Only Anecdotal

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Archive for March 2020

Essential

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The hospital across the street from my house has had a white tent in front of the emergency room for the last few weeks. A strange sight in normal times, but these are not normal times, of course.

If all of this had happened five years ago, I might still be going in to visit people, as I did at least two or three days a week back then, but I doubt I would have had that sort of access. I would instead be trying to telephone, or skype, if possible, and otherwise I would be worrying about the nurses and social workers I knew there, as well as all the people I could no longer visit. A phone call never took the place of going in person back then, and I imagine it still feels lacking in a world of people who often suffer as much from loneliness as from the illness they are fighting. I am sure that the barrier to touch is one of the most difficult parts of this evil virus that has taken us now, the necessary disconnection.

Someone has put up a sign in the parking lot: “Heroes park here.” And indeed, they do. I see them walking back and forth from their jobs as they always have, and they have always been heroes, long before they were deemed “essential employees” in the corona-lexicon.

It is obvious that the people on the front line of illness are essential now, but the rest of the world that keeps those of us safe and fed at home share the badge of essential in these days. Suddenly, gas station attendants, delivery workers, and grocery store cashiers have become important, as it dawns on each and every one of us just how lost we would be if they all just stopped doing their job. In my neighborhood, it is not just the hospital that keep the traffic flowing; it is the many workers, whose landscaping, painting, and construction trucks still leave every morning and come back late. They are essential, and they are busy.

This is not to say that we are always treating them so well. This morning, as my daughter approached the early morning checkout line after a triumphant quest for toilet paper, the man in front of her could not stop himself from screaming at an employee, who had been working hours before the early-morning senior hours, I am sure. What good did it do for him to curse loudly about the inadequate supply of hand sanitizer?

Ah yes, we can vent our frustration at this whole situation. We will probably snap once in a while at someone who does not deserve it. We may drive a little rudely, despite the relative lack of traffic. And we can still demean those who manage the tasks that we just do not want to do. I dare say that this sort of entitlement is a bad habit that took root in the heart of many people long before this current crisis.

Of course, many rise to the crisis, and remember to be thankful. We can order take-out and hope the neighborhood restaurant can stay afloat, and we can tip the Uber Eats driver a little extra for his willingness to risk his life in an attempt to maintain some income. We can have our kids draw pictures for the staff at Grandma’s assisted living. It is nice to do these things, to be generous, and to teach our children to be kind. But will we still remember when all this is over? Will we remember that these so-called “unskilled” workers were once so essential?

 

Written by Only Anecdotal

27 Mar 2020 at 7:37am