December 2018 was tough, health-wise for me. One of those times in life, when like so many other people had before me, I stood on a precipice. I looked down and saw how far I could fall if I didn’t do something. My body had been pushed too far for too many years and I was sick. I had been working too much and not dealing with stress and not treating my body right. I neither drink nor smoke. We all say we have no time. My body showed it had to rest and be nurtured.
Here’s the thing, though. I didn’t realize how incredibly lucky I was at that time, because I had choices and resources.
Fast-forward to 2020. We have Covid-19 now. Looking at myself today, I realize how fortunate I am. To have the ability to do what I can to protect my health is a luxury. I can socially distance. I can be at home. There is a choice for me to do whatever I need to do. I can choose to protect myself due to my weakened immune system. This freedom of choice is a luxury. But this post, believe it or not, is not all about me.
The Real Victims and Heroes
The reality is that the real victims of this horrible virus, Covid-19, are people who have no choice. No choice, even when a shelter-in-place order is decreed, here in California. They are a specific type of essential worker. These people risk their lives and the lives of their families, every day to save ours. They are also the sub-class of essential workers who are the poorest. These are the people who have no means to put food on the table or to have any kind of roof over their heads. The only way they are able to meet their needs is if they work in the riskiest of conditions.
These workers work in unsafe, unhealthy environments with very little protective gear.They might be forced to work in crowded settings. They might even have to live and sleep in crowded, unsanitary conditions in order to get to their worksites everyday. This puts them at risk of getting very sick or of making their vulnerable family members very sick. They have little or no healthcare coverage. They can’t protect their own health. All this is happening in the midst of a massive unemployment crisis with hundreds of thousands or more at risk of eviction. This virus has brought into focus a reality. The reality is that money and financial means will determine your chances of surviving this terrible pandemic.
That avocado or strawberry or fancy variety of greens we like to eat here in California was probably picked by a farmhand. He had to work quickly to harvest the produce before it rotted. The farmhand cannot stop picking those fruits or vegetables to protect his health, when there is an outbreak of Covid-19. He is paid to harvest the fruit and vegetables for our table. He is paid and then he can put food on his table.
That public bathroom we get to use because it has been cleaned and sanitized, was probably cleaned by a certain economic class of woman. That class of woman who can’t be sure that her health is safe from the virus as she cleans and sanitizes it for us. She might be a woman who has to do it anyway. This is because everyday that she gets to work and isn’t sickened by the virus is one more day. One more day to pay the rent. One more day she gets to pay for her child’s needs, which are so many.
It is a game of Russian Roulette that the poorest have to play.
The Lucky Ones
We are the lucky ones. We have the luxury – the luxury to argue about our freedoms and the corresponding loss of the same because we are required to wear masks in public. All of us can downplay the impact or dangers of this virus. We can bicker about eating indoors in our favorite restaurants versus getting take-out to eat in the comfort of our homes. How lucky are we because we get to lament the last time we got to take a proper vacation versus a mere walk in the park? It is our privilege to complain about how difficult it is to miss a workout in a gym as opposed to a Zoom workout or how we really need to go to the theater, instead of watching a mere virtual event.
We are lucky because we can choose to ignore that invisible class, the poorest of the poor, who have to risk death to survive. After all, we work so hard for our money and we deserve to spoil ourselves, as they say.
I, for one, thank my lucky stars that I am, at least in this sense, lucky in life. Do you feel the same about your life?