An Ode To The Essential People
I guess I should feel special, as I am considered 'essential' as we work our way through this unprecedented time. But am I really? Not as much as you are.
I am grateful. And I consider my self more lucky than anything else. I still have a paycheck for the time being, so I can pay my mortgage, and keep my cupboards stocked.
But I can also feel the pain of others who are not so fortunate, and I also have spoken to many listeners who have jobs far more important than mine.
I stumbled across this essay by the Detroit writer and reporter Charlie LeDuff on the Deadline Detroit web site. It is an ode to those of you on the front lines, and I'll share some of it with you here:
There goes the garbage man. He is essential. Without him, trash piles up, vermin come, disease grows. There he is this morning, removing the throwaways of some unseen life, carting it to some unseen hole, never to be considered again. There go the discarded wine racks, the throw pillows, the heaping bags of food waste.
What must he think of us, lounging behind our draperies?
The nurse arrives to work this morning. She is essential. The emergency room bursts with the stricken, and yet she has insufficient equipment to protect herself. But there she is anyway, working without complaint in the great coronavirus pop-up tent, at great risk to herself.
Where has all the public money gone that is supposed to help her, she wonders?
The ambulance jock flies by. Then the cop. Then the fire wagon. The truck driver brings milk and gas and beer. The cashier comes to work at the pet-food shop. The farm laborer still labors. The meat packer still butchers. The utility worker is still up on the wire and down in the sewer. The ancient priest continues to tend to the dying.They are the people who keep America fed, and safe and watered and comforted spiritually.
These are the essential people, underpaid and underappreciated. They are the essential workers who were passed by when the golden pears fell from the magical economy of the past decade. During that halcyon time, we took their benefits and their pensions. We talked about running some of them out of the country. Now we realize how essential they really are. And nobody talks such things.
Not now, anyway.
It is a moment of great humbling in America, a time to ask oneself: Am I essential?
This pandemic will pass, and we will be left to pick up the shards of an economy. But this may also be a moment of self-diagnosis. A time – as we are quarantined in our boxes – to look inside, and come out better.
Yes, we are all essential. Necessary and answerable to one another. For the sake of our children, if nothing else.
Maybe we start by saying thank you, and acknowledging those working people whose work – and lives -- are indeed essential.