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Pandemic 101
What is essential? Will we remember when class is over?
Veronica, editorial
Veronica Coons

Essential seems to be the word of the week. The word, according to the Merriam Webster Dictionary, means, “something necessary, indispensable, unavoidable.” The definition at adds the adjective “absolutely” in front of “necessary,” but it’s essentially the same. 

In light of the stay at home order we’re all living under today, there are new implications to the word. Two categories, “essential” and “non-essential” are being applied to businesses and activities we all undertake on a daily basis. And it’s putting society in a whole new light. 

Our first responders and our medical professionals are on high alert and we are singing their praises, but we’ve never questioned the status of their essential-ness. Today, let’s take a moment to consider the others.

Suddenly, new appreciation for tasks we (society) took for granted just a month ago is surfacing. We realize that the people who check us out at the grocery store and bag our items are people we depend on. The people who clean our buildings, pick up our trash, fill the holes in our streets, repair the systems in our homes and our public spaces, all deserve our gratitude and our appreciation. As one service after another shuts down or alters its hours or how it serves us, we realize, there are so many jobs that have quietly helped to keep our society running that we’ve rarely given a second thought to. 

We’re learning a lot about what is essential and what is not. We’re learning just how essential it is to have a home to shelter in, and a family to love and depend on. We’re learning how services like the internet and items like our cell phones and computers are critical for staying in contact with one another, completing our work from home, and keeping informed on what’s changing on a daily basis.  

Hopefully, we will take a moment to consider what our life would look like without these essential items and services we are depending on every day. There are others in our community right now without these essentials, trying to make it through.  

When all of this is over, hopefully we’ll be more compassionate to our fellows, men, women and children.  Because right now, many of the essentials of life are being provided by people who just a month ago we were referring to as “the working poor,” people who are just getting by, struggling to pay the rent, people depending on free and reduced lunch and SNAP to make ends meet, and who may or may not have medical insurance to cushion a blow from COVID-19. For many of them, this pandemic crisis is just another in a long line of equally distressing developments in their day to day lives.

It shouldn’t take a pandemic to see these essential people in the light we’re looking at them through now.  We need to take time, if we haven’t already, to thank these people for helping to make our lives bearable.