The Quieter Front Lines

The Quieter Front Lines

The following was an introduction during our American Women’s Club Monthly Meeting for October. My brother works as an occupational therapist in an Oregon Hospital. My mother works for a library in Dallas.  As noted, my best Belgian mom-friend works at a grocery store. Stay-at-home working mandates are the rule throughout Europe and speckle the United States. My daily challenge is to keep the house quiet during my husband’s conference calls, a challenging feat. But we are all navigating unchartered and inhospitable waters right now. Our world has turned upside down.

While many of us hunker down and shush our children, countless employees find themselves on the front-lines. Staying at home isn’t an option for them. Wearing a mask, all-day, every day isn’t an option for them. Never in their lives did they think checking out groceries at the store or books at the library would be deemed as noble as the work doctors and nurses are doing. But yet. . . they’ve found themselves here. 

“Good morning, Ladies!

One of my best Belgian mom friends works at the Carrefour in Borsbeek and she told me yesterday. “I’m over the coronavirus. People are so grouchy at my work – my coworkers AND the clients,” and I laughed. I could see her in her apron growing steadily irritated at the requests from the customers behind her mask. No one thinks of the sensitivities of the Carrefour employees. It is not an easy time to navigate anything and keep your head above it all, even for her.

Unlike the rest of us, she never locked down. She’s been on the front lines this entire time, still serving the public. As she’s complaining about the grouchy clients I tried to look for the silver lining – at least she has job security? But she wasn’t quite comforted by my words. And I feel for her.

The world is a bit grouchy, but with that, I’m thankful for you all. We are all here within grasp. We can all log on with a cup of coffee or tea and visit our friends. Like I said in my letter this week, we didn’t ask for the coronavirus, but we’re rolling with it. It’s just one moment in time, in our lives, and in the 91-year history of the club. One day we’ll all look back on this time and think. . . well, I don’t know what we’ll think, but either way, we’ll be glad we got through it.”  

Again, thank you to all of our front-line workers who come in so many unrecognizable and different forms. May we all see beyond our own struggles as we emerge from our homes to mail our letters, fill our baskets with food, and check out books. May we remember to be kind. Be polite. Besides, if you’re rude you’ll never know if your grocery checker is sticking her tongue out at you from behind her mask.   

About Celeste Bennekers

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