“Essential”? Or not! Lordy…what are we doing to people when we use words like this. The Covid-19 pandemic is challenging us to rethink relationships in a big way. No hugging, no touch! Stay 6 feet apart, or more! Wear a mask! Wash away the germs! Many times! And if you go out, it had better be for “essential” business.
We human creatures are just not wired for this. What makes one kind of work or one person, or one kind of organization “essential”, while others are not? Walmart is “essential” apparently, because it is open. Churches are not, because they are not open. Truck drivers are considered “essential”, but apparently restaurant waitstaff are not. Really! Why are we labeling like this? What is the effect on those who suddenly find out that they are no longer “essential”? Talk about a bummer realization!
I think we need to step back and think a little harder about what we are saying to one another with our labels. The words we use matter. While my work may not be considered “essential” today, I still have an important role to play in helping others stay safe. I can be proud of my son, my children and grandchildren as they go about their lives safely. Perhaps there is “essential” work to be done at home, in our gardens, in our parks, work that can be done while maintaining a comfortable distance from others.
The question isn’t “am I essential?” Rather, “what am I essential for?” That might be a little unsettling, but it is real. It means changing who we think we are…in this very real moment.