… for us to learn to appreciate each other.
Despite all the interesting and dire news circulating today, I’m drawn back to the New York Times magazine’s “Exposed. Afraid. Determined.” feature from last week, because it brings together so many voices we usually ignore and it confers dignity on so many jobs we usually disdain, jobs which have suddenly been vaulted into the news by dint of being classified as “essential”.
True, some of the people are accustomed to being honored: the firefighter mentions how people “want to shake our hands and thank us” and the mail carrier says “My customers are like my friends and family. They buy my kids Christmas presents, or I give them birthday cards.” But what many others say reveals their sense of being disrespected, day after day, by us the uncaring public. And that makes me mad.
In homage to these hard-working people, I reprint some of their words here. We need to read these testimonials and hear what they are telling us. And it needs to be remembered. It should not take a pandemic for us to learn to respect each other as equal citizens, equal people, united as humans by our kinship of intelligence.
“The public sees us as dumb flight attendants, but we are the silent first responders.”
“We are always talking to patients. … That can be a waste of time, but we do it anyway.”
“I’m not going to lie, I’m frightened.”
“As a woman of color, I am used to being second-guessed or having patients ask me, ‘When am I going to see a doctor?’”
“I would be lying to say I’m not worried about exposure to Covid-19. But when I’m in the field, the first thing I’m thinking about is helping our people cope. … That’s the first tenet of social work. We show up. We show up. That’s it.”
“I’ve jokingly told customers that I’ve never been so glad that I decided to not only get into pumping gas but also to come back to the station. I’m glad I did.”
“To say that I’m terrified would be an understatement. I decided to do this interview because I’m hoping that it will literally save someone’s life, that companies will take measures to do everything they can to protect their employees.”
“I don’t think that I’m actively worried, but I feel that I am subconsciously.”
“We are doing this to help relieve stress on the parents, because this is a tough time for everyone.”
And here for the record is a photo of the masks produced yesterday, and my own testimonial: “I have never felt more alive. Or stressed, worried about the collective fate of humanity. So thank you, neighbors, for allowing me to help.”