Why do we always seem to be “it”, the people tagged to be on the fatality frontlines – year after year, decade after decade, century after century, from one millennium to the next – at least in this country?
I was so depressed about African Americans being the bulk of COVID-19 deaths across the nation, I almost didn’t get out of bed to listen to my church’s online services on Sunday.
Despite my despair, I did get up and tuned in to the service, and I’m glad I did. I was reminded by the pastor that a) God is always in charge and b) we must be here for each other.
Now, I admit I’ve been smirking at those “we are all in this together” and “we’re here for you” commercials from companies and corporations that probably pay minimum wage, don’t offer health care or paid sick leave, and/or have been gobbling up the federal funds meant for small businesses. I have also been giving the side eye to politicians who are rushing – against scientific and medical advice – to re-open their states for business. Probably trying to please those campaign-donating companies and corporations?
Anyway, as I listened to the sermon, I was reminded of another time – when I was a kid in Charleston, South Carolina in the summer of 1969, when the hospital workers, sanitation workers and in the fall, the schoolteachers, went on strike.
I remember the stench as garbage piled up in our neighborhood. My dad, who had the only car in the neighborhood, became the unofficial trash collector. With the help of the other neighborhood men, he loaded garbage bags into the trunk of his car and made trip after trip to the dump. Now, my dad loved his cars and was the type of person who bought a new car every two or three years, so it was saying something that he offered up his beloved automobile to haul garbage!
My point is that we did not wait on the government or the politicians or the corporations to figure it out for us. We did it ourselves. And I know that many of us may feel that we are – or should be – at a point in this country where we SHOULD be able to depend on our government to do right by us, but year after year, decade after decade, century after century, from one millennium to the next, we are disappointed.
So, going back to the sermon and despite the corny commercials that have co-opted this phrase – we, as a people, do indeed need to be there for each other – as we have been in the past.
Before I get to how we can do that in the midst of a global shutdown: full disclosure – I am not a front-line worker and I’ve been quarantining for the past six weeks in the comfort of my house in the ‘burbs. As I have watched the horror (and the heroism) of this pandemic play out on national news, I’ve felt guilty about being able to stay out of harm’s way.
But I have friends and family who are front-line workers, so what can I, sitting on my sofa, do to help?
1. Continue to shelter in place and social distance. I know we are all going stir crazy, but I am incensed by the videos of hordes of people roaming the parks and beaches and returning to restaurants and hair salons. I would like a pedicure, too, but my front-line people are depending on me to wait it out so as not to overwhelm our healthcare workers with yet another sick person.
2. Hold off on ordering nonessential items online. I know retail therapy can be its own stress reliever in these trying times, and those emails promising 50, 70 and even 90 percent off can be enticing, but I’ve forced myself to stop even looking at those emails and have urged my family to do the same. My front-line warehouse, delivery and postal workers don’t need to be overburdened any more than they already are with trying to bring me some piece of junk I can do without.
3. Support the organizations and institutions that support us. I’ve been giving more to my church through their online portal than I normally would sitting in the pews (mostly because I sometimes forget to stop at the ATM to get cash on my way to church!) But my point is, I trust my church to use the funds as needed for members who may have been overlooked by their state’s unemployment system, have not gotten that stimulus check yet or have no hopes of getting a piece of the billions earmarked for small businesses. Please also don’t forget our HBCUs. I just got an email from my alma mater (HU, you know!) seeking funds for students who need to pay off school debt so they can graduate.
4. Support our small businesses. I started my blog with the idea to highlight small businesses with the hope that some publicity would drive customers and clients their way. I don’t charge anything for featuring businesses on my blog or ask readers for paid subscriptions. Even so, I have not gotten the support I would like, but I keep plugging away. Why? Because I believe that if we don’t support our own businesses, NO ONE ELSE WILL.
5. And finally, vote, vote, VOTE! This is an election year, and I know I am preaching to the choir here. But please remind our front-line people why it’s important to vote for leaders who truly care about our issues. And while I feel guilty about being able to wait out this pandemic at home, I am reminded of front-line people, like our parents, who marched and fought and some even died, for our right to live where we want to. And I know we all are looking for that “perfect” candidate, a la Barack Obama, but we have to get over it and elect people who most closely align with making sure that year after year, decade after decade, century after century, from one millennium to the next – we are not always “it.”
Keep the faith, my people. This, too, shall pass.