Imagine getting ready for work early in the morning after a restless night. Not many people are able to sleep well when constantly being inundated by news of the corona virus. As an essential worker in a grocery store, a typical day will most likely include being asked to work a ten to twelve hour shift because of the shortage of employees. Some co-workers are sick, others have quit due to fear of exposure to the virus, and the need for cleaning and disinfecting has created even more labor. In the past you looked forward to going to work. You enjoyed the opportunity to serve the public and liked your job. While working retail can be tough, especially when dealing with cranky customers, it gives you a sense of satisfaction knowing you are contributing to your community by providing a needed service.
It has been said that difficult times bring out the best and the worst in people. Unfortunately, during the corona virus pandemic, often grocery store workers must bear the brunt of the worst. I spent about fifteen minutes yesterday speaking on the phone with a manager of one of our local grocery stores. Before I was able to speak to him, I spoke to the person who answered the phone, and asked to speak to the manager. She inquired as to whether I wanted to speak to the hiring manager, who was in their store in response to the worker shortage. I told her no, I wanted to speak to the regular manager. I wanted to express my appreciation to all of the employees for their hard work and their willingness to serve our community. I told her that having worked in retail, I knew that when people are under stress they are often not every nice and I wanted to make sure the employees know how much they are appreciated.
She replied, “I just got goosebumps. Nobody has been nice all week. I can’t tell you how much this means to us.”
The young lady got the manager on the phone and during our ten minute chat I learned of several things:
Many employees were scared, but coming to work anyway.
Some employees were not coming to work, causing a short staffing situation and extra work for those who did.
The number of customers that have been nice or understanding were less than he could count on one hand. He tried his best to encourage his associates but it was really hard because of customers complaining over things of which the employees had no control over.
I told him we were regular customers and so grateful for his service and that of his employees. I shared with him that my husband has asthma and hypertension in addition to being over sixty, so we were not leaving the house since he is in multiple high risk groups. It was because of his workers that we could safely get our groceries by utilizing their pickup and delivery options. This manager, who was struggling to keep his store associates encouraged, shared with me that he also has asthma (which puts him in the high risk group). He told me he continued to work because he believed it was better to give than to receive. His words humbled me. They should humble you, too. In parting, I expressed how I was looking forward to the day, in the not too distant future, when we could see him and thank him in person.
I would like to ask you to look beyond the inconvenience of empty shelves and long lines, and instead view these workers through a lens of gratitude. I also challenge you to take that gratitude a step further and act upon it. That looks different for different people – but we can all participate in some way. It may be simply by including these folks in your prayers. It may be telling workers when you see them how much you appreciate what they are doing. You can have patience and understanding when they are out of what you wanted. Perhaps it is a phone call to say a quick thanks. You could even do something more tangible – I found these cards on Amazon. I asked the manager how many employees he had and I ordered enough for all of them and had them sent directly to the store.
These courageous folks are making a difference every day by going to work to meet the needs of our communities. How can we make a difference for them?