Just like everyone else, I am so thankful for those labeled emergency workers: the nurses, doctors, medical workers, and crisis center personnel who are carrying on during this time. Goodness knows, right now we need them to keep the world running, and I would never take anything from them.
However, right now we also have an invisible group of essential workers who are also regularly putting themselves at risk. They are deemed “essential” by one of two reasons:
1. They are needed to keep the critical services running (oversee and coordinate)
2. They are needed to keep the supply lines flowing, and then distributed, to all of us in need
These people are recognized with a nod or comment occasionally, but honestly, I don’t think most of us even realize how much they do in service to us — because they have always kept our lives so seamlessly running behind the scenes, and continue to do so now.
Where are the honking, singing, clapping crowds for the grocery store workers who drudge to work with extra responsibilities in a job with minimal pay? They now have duties of wiping down everything all the time, dealing with customers mad about lack of supply, and long hours of interaction with a sometimes less-than-cheery barrage of customers. We don’t classify these people as heroes, yet they are keeping our supply chain running and risking exposure every single day from people that won’t follow the simple instruction to wear a mask.
How about the people working to feed our children right now? Teacher’s assistants, bus drivers, cafeteria workers, transportation coordinators … all working together to pack up lunches and set up to provide them to the community. Many of them are working long days, trying to apply all social distancing rules, and yet servicing the children to provide food for every day of the week.
How about the fast food and restaurant workers? They are just like the grocery store workers whose jobs have gotten heavier since this started. Or the UberEats, GrubHub, food delivery drivers. And those shoppers that pull the groceries for delivery. Also those who work for and in assistance to Amazon, including the USPS, FedEx, and UPS delivery. Add in our long haul truckers as well. Janitorial workers. Sanitation crews.
All of these people have one thing in common: They are the oft-overlooked “cogs in the machine” who have suddenly become front line soldiers without warning or preparation. They are working for us, for the public, to provide for us during this horribly difficult time. They have children they are trying to find childcare for or risk losing their jobs. They have family members who might be immunocompromised. They may have become the sole support for a family struggling with bills when the main income has been lost. Many are dealing with depression and stress just like the rest of us, with the additional worries about reducing the risk to their family members, all while going to work under far from normal conditions.
They didn’t go into this to be essential to the entire economy; they went into it to be essential to providing for their families.
How many of us have whined, while we sit comfortably in the safety of our own homes, because we don’t have our normal lives and miss going to the grocery store, out to eat, or the immediate gratification of shopping? I admit to doing it, too — I’m human, after all. Yet these people are dealing with all the dangers of a pandemic every day while working tirelessly to provide for the rest of us at home with our coffee, couch, cable, Amazon, and internet. These are the workers that are continuing to work in an often low-paid profession, some of whom would have likely made more if they were laid off and could collect emergency unemployment checks.
I don’t usually use the word “hero,” but even so, where are the celebrations, clapping, singing, signs, tributes and more for these folks? Because let’s be honest, they are the ones that are keeping this current, chaotic world running — many at less than $10 an hour — so that we can stay at home and practice the protocols that keep us safe.
This article was originally published on