Are you Essential?

Article for the April Parish News

Everything is changing, we awake to a whole new world. Some of you who read this will be in isolation and will have been so for 2 weeks or more. Some of you will be laid off work or working from home and will be trying to sort your life around the concept of social distancing and for some it will be business as usual because you work in an ‘essential’ service.

This time has forced us all both personally and as a culture to examine what is truly essential. Suddenly bakers, fruit and veg pickers, shop workers in the food industry and delivery drivers are seen for what they are… as essential. We all now remember what is ESSENTIAL; food, clean water and a roof over our heads, they are, and always have been, the essentials of Life but they have been hidden by  cheap abundance that has given us a false sense of security. We thought that empty shelves belonged to other countries and other times as for us the constant display of abundance in our supermarket shelves was a natural situation. It must be a good thing that we have woken from this illusion and are for a moment in solidarity with most of the world for which food is hard won and realise that it requires work and skill to produce. So, for some this is a time when we say a proper big THANK YOU to those who feed and water us and who keep us healthy.

However, for others there is a deep loss as they struggle with feeling that they are not essential. For many, many people who are over 70 or have underlying health conditions it appears that the world is saying, thank you for all that volunteering, the family support and skills that you bring to society but now we want you to STOP! It feels like there is a big sign saying ‘Non-Essential’ around some sections of the population and this is incredibly hard.

I am pleased for those who have been undermined with low wages and zero hours contracts that they are now being recognised for the essential services they provide, and I am sad for the elderly and vulnerable who feel their sense or worth slipping away, but in fact now may be the time for us challenge everything about the way that our society is structured and value that people are given.

Imagine if we found our worth within ourselves; I might say in our identity as human beings created by God. Imagine if we knew our own worth, if we saw ourselves as essential to society for the specific gifts only we offer. Imagine an education system that give equal value to the skills of the hands as those of the head and trained both our craftspeople and our academics of the future. Imagine respect across society as the vitality of youth learns from the wisdom of age. Imagine retaining this sense of thankfulness for other people and for the gifts of the earth.

I lady said to me today that she had gone to the shop and been so grateful that she could get a loaf of bread and she smiled as she said this knowing that the gratitude doubled the joyful experience of the gift of the bread.

So, know this, you are essential and so are your neighbours, we depend upon each other and knowing this is the gift of this time.

God Bless Ali

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