Who is Essential?

Remember how before this pandemic began that people looked down upon others in certain jobs or positions (and especially upon those without jobs)? If you didn’t have a degree you were considered worthless. I mean, really, who wants to be a cashier at a grocery store? Who wants to be the person who picks up trash? What wants to be the person who cleans the toilets? Who wants to be the one who picks the fruit, works in a factory, or serves at a restaurant? Those with more “important” jobs often looked down upon the ones that did the menial work, the “simple” work, the work that was beneath them. Many of those people were very vocal about their disdain for the “little guy”.

In recent weeks we have seen the tables turn. As the country went into lockdown, the “essential” people have been identified and it was not those who hold degrees and high paying jobs. Instead it was the “little” people- the grocery store workers, sanitation workers, electricians, firemen, police officers, the truckers, and many of the other positions that people often look down upon. In response to this declaration of importance there has been a loud “I told you so!” from the crowd that is used to being looked down upon. “What’s that degree doing for you now?” they shout. “Guess you aren’t as important as you thought!” they jeer. “You aren’t important, you aren’t essential, you aren’t worth as much as we are!” they taunt. It seems their lives have been validated and yet, all the while they readily dole out their own hate and taunts towards those who have regularly treated them like trash.

It all makes me sad.

During this time we need each other more than ever. When will we learn that every person, regardless of their vocation or state in life, is important to our community? I think that those who previously looked down upon the “little guys” seem to understand that those jobs have worth, but would they be ok with their kids choosing to have those careers? Have their hearts and minds been changed enough to understand that these jobs are absolutely just as important as the high paying positions that they wish for their children? I hope so.

And surely we all realize, degree or not, that the jobs which aren’t considered “essential” at this very moment actually are essential in the long run. Those people who run small businesses and those who run large corporations, who analyze and report, and who do the work that we can’t understand because we don’t have a degree in that field, are also the ones who keep our economy going. They provide the jobs so that you can buy groceries or gas or own a home. If we keep them shut down for too long our economy will collapse. Those of you working at the grocery stores, drive thru, pharmacy, and other “essential” places will be out of jobs as well- not because you aren’t essential, but because there isn’t enough money stimulating our economy to allow you to have jobs.

I have often been criticized for not pushing college on my children. While I love to be in school and I hold three separate degrees including a Master’s degree in Theology, I know that college isn’t for everyone. If my kids want to go to college, I will do all I can to help them get there. But, I want my children to do what works best for their lives. For some that means they will head to college and for others it means they will skip college and instead head out into the world without a degree. I have always told them that I will be proud of them no matter if they are the CEO of a large company making millions or if they are working as a cashier at Walmart. As long as they are supporting themselves, they are living a righteous life, and they are making the world a better and kinder place I will be proud. My job is to raise children who are kind, loving, and who work hard to make their lives and the lives of others good. I know this can happen with or without a degree.

Isn’t it time that we begin to see how each person is important in our community? Isn’t it time to stop looking down on others because they hold a different job than we do? Those with degrees are not better than those who don’t have a degree. And, just because you are deemed “essential” right this moment, doesn’t mean that those who have to stay home are not. We all play a vital role in this world. We all have worth. We are all important.

If we truly believe that each and every person is made in the image and likeness of God, shouldn’t we treat them that way? Why do we look down on others simply because they are different than we are? I imagine God’s heart breaks when we look at someone and judge them as inferior to us simply because they are different. None of us are superior to anyone else. We need to stop looking down on others and instead see their true worth- worth that is not dependent upon the job they perform.

The path you are on is unlike your neighbor’s path. Your journey will not look the same as anyone else’s and that is ok! Don’t allow others to judge you based on what they feel is right for their own lives. What is right for them may not be right for you. Keep working to support yourself, to live a righteous life, and to make this world a better and kinder place for everyone. If you do this, you will be successful no matter the path you are on.

Regardless of if you have multiple degrees or no degrees, if you are a CEO, a doctor, a police officer, a farmer, a plumber, a contractor, a trash man, a stay at home parent, a teacher, a hairstylist, a janitor, or a grocery store clerk; if you are unemployed, disabled, or unsure of what to do with your future, you are important. You matter. You are needed. YOU are essential to our community and to our world.

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