I miss the days of meandering through grocery store aisles, figuring out what to make for the week. But the severity of COVID-19 should not be underestimated. I remind myself to be grateful for what I have, including the ability to still go to the local grocery store to pick up essentials. I am reminded that getting the freshest piece of fish doesn’t matter anymore. I feel a sense of shared humanity with others as I walk through the grocery store with a longing for the simplicity of carefree grocery shopping.
We often use the term front-line workers when referring to healthcare professionals focused on caring for COVID-19 patients. There is another category of workers who are also risking their lives each day: grocery store employees. Their work is essential, and many states have declared grocery store workers as such. These low-wage workers are clearly at the front line of the pandemic.
Grocery clerks are working to make sure members of their community have what they need. A grocer in Manhattan pointed out that she and her co-workers are “working 30 to 40 hours in the exact place you’re being told to avoid.” They have the same level of dedication that we see from doctors and nurses. A 45-year-old grocery worker in South Carolina told Business Insider: “I also feel like I can’t just stay home because the elderly need supplies and a kind word.”
The managers at your local grocery store have become counselors-in-chief to a harried staff and fearful customers. As one store manager in Massachusetts explains, his agenda each day consists of “getting enough goods on the emptying shelves, keeping customers safe and calm, keeping employees healthy and committed, and keeping himself from getting sick. Ready, set, go.” Each day leaders at your local grocery store are focused on serving and surviving.
What can we, as a community, do to support our local grocers?
- Acknowledge those at the grocery store as the heroes they are. Thank them with the same reverence that we show veterans, nurses, and doctors who put their lives on the line. As you walk through the store, acknowledge those who are stocking the shelves and checking you out with a deep heart-centered sense of gratitude.
- Be as quick as possible. When you enter a grocery store, minimize the risk to yourself and others:
- Observe the 6-feet distance recommendations.
- Don’t ask about out-of-stock items. Even just having the conversation puts the store employee at risk due to close contact.
- Minimize contact with the food. Don’t move all of the milk around to find the one with the best expiration date.
- Be nice. The reality is stores will not have everything you need. Do not get angry or take it out on any of the store employees. They are heroes putting their lives on the line. Treat them with respect and just accept that you might not be able to get free-range, organic meat on a particular day.
- Use delivery and store-side pickup. These options are not to make things easier, but also to reduce the spread of COVID-19 and keep employees healthy. As the CDC reminds us, we need to stay home. Limit your visits to the store and stock up on what you need.
Heroism is about character, dedication, and a sense of responsibility, as well as a sense of courage and bravery. Our grocery store employees deserve to be called heroes. At this point, those working on the front line are taking it day by day – stocking shelves so we can be nourished and ensuring the elderly have what they need. Nothing matters except for getting through each day and staying healthy.
About the AuthorMore Content by Lynne Levy