Six weeks into it, and I’m now in the phase of the pandemic where I feel like a pampered, entitled middle-class woman who has nothing to complain about but complains anyway.
Most of the things I’ve been doing are far removed from having to survive paycheck to paycheck. I’m lucky enough to work from home for full pay. I help my kids with their school work. I make dinner for my family. I garden and study Spanish. I jot down ideas of my goals for the future after I do yoga while listening to podcasts.
It’s getting to the point where I’m embarrassed at the fortune that’s landed on my lap that allows me to stay safe at home. I feel like a princess waiting in the castle while others win the battle as she watches on, and that is not in line with my usual scrappy, stubborn personality.
I am always a person who wants to dig in more and not take the easy way out, so working from home and loafing around the house while others have to physically go into work and put themselves in harm’s way has really started to make my soul get itchy.
This time away from real life should be a dream come true, but my mood gets dark some days when I remember the inequality of this pandemic. My husband sometimes asks me what’s wrong, and I can’t really even put my finger on it aside from a restless sadness or a hopelessness that I can’t help others more, and we have advantages they don't.
I went into Walmart the other day to get groceries, and I saw an employee there who was in his 60s or so and walked with a severe limp. My eyes quickly landed on him and couldn’t stop staring because of the unfairness of the situation. He could barely walk, yet there he was wearing his yellow vest, walking with a cane to the cash register, ready to serve others when all I wanted to do was take over his shift for him while he got a foot massage.
I was buying craft beer, while this man was literally struggling, probably living paycheck to paycheck. I felt like a spoiled hipster and was mad at myself for the whining I did earlier that day that I could never squeeze in any time for myself.
It makes me cringe that I get to go home to a comfortable house with a husband and kids who are so sheltered from having to struggle that we lack the consciousness to remember others are facing adversity we can’t fathom because we’re not swimming in it with them.
This upper hand of being away from struggle dulls the flames of empathy and compassion, and I need to be careful of this slippery slope that leads to the darkness of apathy.
I was a single mom for a while and for quite some time lived paycheck to paycheck, even on food stamps at one point, wondering how to creatively put the pieces together, so I need to keep this heaviness of my own narrative in the forefront of my heart more to nudge me off the sidelines of comfort.
I’ve thankfully been away from that situation long enough to not dwell on the enormity of it, but I need to remember my past discomfort to help me feel the reality of others currently there.
The gentleman I saw was on the other side of the store, but I was sure to extend kindness to my cashier. I told her, “You are awesome and doing a great job. Thank you so much for working. Take care of yourself and give yourself some love.” She answered with a tired smile, “Oh, yes. We need to do that. That's the most important thing."
That didn’t bring her the money she needs, and believe me, it keeps me up at night that people are struggling and I can’t help every last one of them, so I’m hoping this human connection and sincere gratitude I offered did something small to remind her she is seen, valued, and incredible.
And I have no superhero ending about how I gave half my bank account to the people who served me at Walmart like I wish I could. Nope. I took my craft beer and went home, quickly consumed again by the bubble I live in for now, embarrassment settling in once again that I am contributing nothing as I googled a recipe for our next meal I have too much time to obsess over.
I have enough time on my hands these days that I am at least doing my best to slow down and listen to ways I can help others who are in the thick of it and what I can do to serve them. I know the answers will arrive as long as I invite that discomfort in instead of turning away from it or pretending it doesn’t exist simply because I am no longer in it.
I will push myself to keep looking out for ways to help because I like my craft beer more when everyone has a sip.