It is easy to forget just how enlightening conversations with a five-year-old boy can be.
One morning, for example, I walked into a room where my husband and grandson were playfully arguing about who had “tooted“.
“You did!” “No, it was you!” “It was you, Tooter McSmellypants!” At this point, my husband won the argument, since my grandson dissolved in laughter.
We, of course, heard the epithet “Tooter McSmellypants” for the rest of the visit. If something is funny the first time to a young boy, it is hilarious the twentieth time.
Another day, my grandson and I watched as a small bulldozer prepared their neighbor’s backyard to have a concrete patio installed.
Just like his father, the boy loves to watch construction vehicles. I can remember spending a morning watching steamrollers, dump trucks, and pavement spreaders when my son was about the same age and our street was being paved.
The young man who operated the bulldozer soon realized he had an audience of two and introduced himself as Brian to my grandson and me.
“I used to love to watch bulldozers when I was your age,” Brian told us, smiling.
Then my grandson said something profound. Something I am still thinking about today. “Wow!” he said, “You really did make your dreams come true.”
Brian laughed, somewhat sheepishly. “I guess I did,” he replied.
To a just-turned-five-year-old boy, the dream of driving something as cool as a bulldozer is real and magnificent. To a dirty, sweaty thirty-year-old, actually driving a bulldozer for hours in the sweltering summer sun is something else, something much less dreamlike.
It is my guess that as he got older, Brian did not dream of driving a bulldozer for a living and this was the source of his embarrassment. Bulldozer driver is not a career we are typically encouraged to aspire to when considering potential occupations.
Young people are often inspired to become doctors, lawyers, engineers, scientists, accountants, or even titans of business, all well-respected and well-paid professions.
But these days more than ever, I think, we are beginning to realize, we need grocery store cashiers, we need bus drivers, and people who work at meat-packing plants, and farmers, and nurses, and teachers, and garbage collectors, and child care workers.
We need police officers, and social workers, and custodians, and waitresses. We need bulldozer drivers.
Here are three thoughts about these every day heroes.
- These jobs have value, they have worth, they have inherent dignity. Workers with these job titles deserve our respect.
And they deserve more pay.
Frontline workers earn less than the average worker in the United States and are composed of a larger share of minorities, particularly Blacks and Hispanics.
- Early in the pandemic, we expressed our gratitude to health care workers with parades, organized cheering events, and social media posts thanking them for putting their lives on the line by showing up to work every day.
But we didn’t do anything to increase their salary.
Or help them with child care, even though a whopping 23% of all health support personnel are single mothers (compared to 8% of all workers).
- Essential workers are heroes and here’s the thing that is so amazing: they keep on doing heroic things every day because that’s the way they live their lives. They do it humbly, they do it without seeking praise, they do it in service of others.
We need selfless heroes today more than ever. We need people to step up and care for each other. We need it to become a way of life, a matter of course. We need to do it without thinking twice, all of us, just like health care workers do.
Just like the garbage collectors and farmers and child care workers do every day.
Just like the bulldozer drivers.
The Lord has brought down the powerful from their thrones, and lifted up the lowly; The Lord has filled the hungry with good things, and sent the rich away empty. – Luke 1:52
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