On Friday morning, a customer shopping in Target at 8 a.m. to buy toilet paper walked up to a group of employees who were stocking shelves and told them, “Thank you for working. I really appreciate all you’re doing.”
A few minutes later, a cashier checking out a customer’s 30-pack of Charmin, 3-pack of Kleenex and a 30-pound bag of cat food remarked how funny it was that he suddenly was an “essential worker,” while making minimum wage.
OK, a little more than minimum wage.
All of our lives have been overturned by the coronavirus crisis. We’ve been asked to stop socializing. We’re working at home. Our kids are home from school. Maybe we’ve been laid off or put on furlough because of the massive closure of businesses — from restaurants and bars to movie theaters and hair salons.
But not all of us are hunkered down in our houses.
A lot of people are still working, sometimes extra hours or early in the morning, doing the essential services we need to get through this.
They’re working at supermarkets and other stores, restocking shelves, sanitizing and manning checkout counters.
Restaurant workers whose restaurants have shifted to take-out are doing different jobs preparing food and packaging it up for customers.
We can’t say enough about the health workers — doctors, nurses, aides and staff — who are being called upon to process coronavirus testing on top of the regular daily emergencies and care they provide.
They’re working long hours and often without the equipment and protection gear they need, getting literally right in the faces of people who might be sick and who certainly are stressed out.
There are government workers trying to process unemployment checks and tax materials. There are truck drivers and workers in warehouses bustling to restock stores and restaurants.
There are members of the National Guard and police and first responders ready to respond, even as they cope with the impacts of the virus in their own lives.
There are people out there volunteering to provide food for school kids and others in need. There are restaurants offering free meals. There are volunteers in every aspect of life who continue to give back.
Teachers are still teaching, even if they’re not in the classroom. Home health aides and road construction crews and utility employees and journalists are out there doing their jobs like normal, in the most un-normal of circumstances.
If we left any profession off this modest list, it’s only because there are just so many.
We might not always recognize some professions and individuals as “essential” until we need them. And we need these individuals more than ever.
So take a second to thank them, with a personal comment or a note or a posting on Facebook. Be patient with them. Be nice to them. Remember, they’re under stress, too.
We’re all in this together. And we will get through this together — with the help of some very special, very essential people.