Almost daily I hear or read that we are in this together. However, the truth is that we are simply not. All implies everyone. Amid this global crisis, not everyone is facing the same circumstances. Not everyone is in the same situation.
Last week, I pulled into my local grocery store’s parking lot and scanned the area for a quick “in and out” spot. I felt a pit in my stomach when I saw the lot was full of people buzzing in and out. A sense of anxiety crept in. Routine tasks and errands have now become games of chance.
Brushing fears aside, I parked, then made my way across the lot and into the store. I power-walked through the aisles in search of a few items I was missing at home. I snagged them and made my way to the line.
Two people ahead, a woman at the register was rifling through her purse, searching for more money. She narrated her actions aloud as she searched in various compartments of her purse while people watched – they were clearly annoyed with the holdup.
“I don’t have enough,” she told the cashier. She added, “You know what? Let me go check my car.”
My fellow shopper grabbed her purse and made her way out the front door just a few feet ahead of me. As I stood there frozen processing the scene, I was transported back nearly two decades.
The cashier declared the total aloud and embarrassment instantly covered my mother’s face. She didn’t have enough cash to cover the bill. I was only 10, but old enough to understand difference … the difference between those with money, and those without.
As I grew up, my parents worked lower-wage jobs in the cleaning and meatpacking industries. Presently, we see low-wage workers like those working in meatpacking plants and other similar industries at a higher risk of contracting COVID-19 because of the nature of working conditions and industry demands.
The truth is that the adult version of me who has a steady income, health benefits, a home office where I can work in isolation, and a bank account that can cover my grocery bill is not living the same reality as someone who can’t because they don’t make enough or have lost their job.
I am not living the same reality that a meatpacking employee is living during this crisis – working in cold temperatures, in very close proximity to coworkers for hours at a time, and at a very fast pace to meet production quotas. A pace that makes it hard to comply with every safety measure that’s supposed to help keep them healthy.
The virus that has so quickly spread across our world has changed so much for so many, and it’s lurking everywhere. Millions of people across the country have lost their jobs, people are losing roofs over their heads, and many can’t afford their next meal.
So – give people grace.
Pitch in where you can, if you can.
We may not be “in this together,” but we can certainly come together to support our neighbors in need during these trying times. That can mean making an online donation, volunteering at a local pantry, or through simple acts of kindness to get us through.
Liz supports local efforts to build thriving communities. She is among the leaders of the South Omaha Business Association and is vice-president of the Metro Young Latino Professionals Association.