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  • Jeffrey Mason

Essential Today. What About Tomorrow?


Yesterday, I did my weekly run to the grocery store.


It was busy, but not crowded. People were keeping their distance from each other and masks were as common as umbrellas in a rainstorm.


The lines for check-out were long, made that way as each shopper rigidly stood on the strips of green tape that had been affixed to the floor in unmeasured six-foot intervals.


These lines of tape were our bases, and we would be safe as long as we stayed on them.


When I reached the checker, I asked him how he was doing. He replied, “Good. Tired.”


His eyes were circled by lines of stress and the gray of exhaustion. A crabgrass of whiskers from several days of not shaving ran beneath and around the domed paper mask that hid his nose and mouth.


We talked as he one-by-one pushed my items across the scanner. The muffles of our masks and the Plexiglas shield that walled us apart made it hard to hear each other’s words.


He talked about how he had worked every day for the last nine days. He mentioned how he was thankful to have a job, seemingly to be saying it more for himself, trying to push away his worries and need for relief.


I told him that I hoped he was getting some rest. The scanning paused. He looked down.

“Yeah. I can’t get sick. I can’t get my wife sick.”


The scanning began again.


I wanted to say something hopeful and encouraging, just anything to show him someone cared.


The words weren’t there. Everything I thought of seemed insignificant compared to what he was dealing with.


All I could manage was, “Thank you. Please keep well.”


I walked to my car, wiping my hands with sanitizer, erasing danger, and my worries.


Safe.


I drove home.


Safe.


I am one of the fortunate ones.


Safe.


I have an income.


Safe.


My loved ones and I are protected, tucked away in our bubbles.


Safe.


“Thank you. Please keep well.” That is all I could offer.


Essential Jobs filled by Essential Workers. But do we treat them like Essential people?


This moment will create change. Will it just be a hand-washed version of yesterday or will it be something new where we provide access to true dignity and livelihoods for these Essential People?


Shouldn’t we ensure they have a paycheck that pays their bills, so they don’t have to work multiple jobs to make ends meet?


Shouldn’t they and their families have access to healthcare? Shouldn’t they be able to live in a home that is both affordable and safe? Shouldn’t they have lives and livelihoods that match the importance of their jobs?


Essential Jobs. Essential People.


“Thank you. Please keep well.” That is all I could offer.


Going forward, I will say thank you with my words and my actions.


Where I shop. Where I eat. How I vote. Who I honor.


Essential People.

Essential Lives.

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© 2020 by Jeffrey Mason. All Rights Reserved