I’m up early, rolling little balls of sticky sausage and cheese for breakfast. Not the most pleasant kitchen task, but the little bites of savory are perfect with coffee on a cold November morning. More than that, these little bites are a traditional beginning to our winter holiday feasts. So I roll, getting the tray of uniform balls ready to bake, ready to serve when the group stirs.
As I roll I think, my mind free to wander as my hands are occupied with the sticky dough. And this day in November, my heart is full of thanks.
I’m thinking of all those people throughout the country who are working quietly, keeping things running, humming, even on a week day when most of us are off and home with family. The healthcare staff, the police, the crews working at airports, the military who’re on duty today, the folks keeping gas stations and convenience stores going for the benefit of travelers; I think of the lights that come on when I flip the switch, the oven that heats, the warm kitchen…I’m sure there are crews monitoring the utilities of our lives, making sure the turkey can roast and the cranberry salad stays chilled. And tomorrow, and on Saturday, crews will be out, making the rounds in trash and recycling trucks, taking away the remnants of the feasting, and the shopping, and the gathering.
I am a worker. But I don’t keep life stitched together. I’m essential only to a few souls on earth, and even that necessity is limited to a supporting role. And I recognize that. In one sense, none of us is essential. No one is irreplaceable. Life teaches us that, sooner or later.
But some people have chosen to take on life tasks that make them, for a time, essential. The odd thing is that many of those tasks also are invisible to the average person. Who sees, or knows, the names and faces of service workers? Other service workers, and their family members.
People contribute in many ways. We have a lot of teachers in my family. We have ministers, mothers and fathers, doctors, nurses, a truck driver, an undertaker, IRS agents, a cartographer, business owners and executives, writers, publishers, engineers, security guards, counselors, IT professionals, farmers…who have I left out? What a splendid array of professions, now that I see the list on my screen!
But just today, I’m thinking of the ones who cover call, whose jobs don’t take a break because the calendar says to…the folks who know that their turn will come, if not this holiday, then the next…it will be their turn to work when everyone else is off, and keep essential services up and running. To those people, I’m especially grateful. My lights came on, and I know if I have an emergency, someone will answer the call for help.
Thank you for being there, even when I’m too busy, in my holiday rush of list completion, to notice. And just now, with my hands covered in dough, my mind is still, calm for a moment, and I picture you, going about your routine, keeping us safe, keeping things humming, invisible but so necessary. Thank you for choosing hard jobs, and long hours, and for doing the (often) thankless and unglamorous tasks. Thank you for giving up your family time, and for making mine possible.