To whom it may concern:
I wanted to say this in person, but this whole social distancing thing makes that impossible. So I decided to write you a letter. I won’t take up too much of your time.
I just wanted to say that I’ve been so moved by the work you’re doing lately. During this whole coronavirus thing you’ve really gone the extra mile. I wish I could write each one of you. Sadly, there are bajillions of you, and only one of me. So this will have to do.
Anyway, you don’t know me. I’m one of the faceless Americans you’ve been helping when you wake up every morning and do what you do.
Yesterday, for instance, I saw you through the burger-joint window, manning the grill. You wore a surgical mask and latex gloves. You had a line of to-go orders a mile long. Cars were lined up in the drive-thru lane stretching back to Bangladesh. You just did your job.
This letter is for you, and your fellow cooks, cashiers, and even your grumpy manager, Kate, who made you work last Fourth of July because she is about as much fun as getting slapped with a spatula.
Also, to the woman who wrote to me yesterday whose daughter is a nurse, treating people with COVID-19 in New York. Even though her daughter is young and healthy, she puts herself on the front lines every day.
This is written to hospital custodial workers who clean every inch of every surface. Even the ceilings. To the cafeteria workers. The greeters. The security guards. Maintenance men. Triage. ICU. X-ray techs.
To the guy who drives our local UPS delivery truck. That guy is my hero. Every day he’s making deliveries around town. It makes me wonder how many hundreds of millions of gazillions of people are working every day, packaging boxes, loading trucks, driving forklifts, fulfilling online orders, and organizing the complex microcosmic symphony of daily deliveries.
While I’m at it, this is also for my mail lady who is always on time. Even on weekends.
To janitors. To anyone who mans a mop and a pushbroom. To people who keep public places disinfected even though the world is anything but disinfected right now.
To grocery store employees, who wear face masks for nine hours per day. Who deal with the General Public. We, the public, who aren’t exactly sunshiny customers right now, if you catch my drift.
To the cashiers. To the bag boys. To grocery delivery services. To the guys in the loading department, wearing back braces.
To anyone who has to scrub themselves down with rubbing alcohol before taking a simple lunch break.
To the man who still operates his Massey Ferguson tractor on a 480-acre farm in Alabama, Florida, Georgia, or Mississippi. To men who till the plains of Nebraska, Kansas, Oklahoma, Indiana, Texas, and Illinois.
The farmers of Louisiana, Tennessee, the Carolinas, and every other wonderous state I didn’t mention. Even South Dakota—although, technically, I am not sure anyone actually lives there.
I write to those who raise beef, pigs, cotton, wheat, corn, alfalfa, carrots, iceberg lettuce, and—even though I could go the rest of my life without eating another godforsaken stick of the stuff—celery.
To poultry farmers in Ohio. Dairy farmers in Wisconsin. To anyone who makes it possible for me to eat a tomato.
To all South Dakotans who resent the cheap joke I just made about them.
To the guy who scrubs the public buses with bleach after every use. To the Marines, the Army, the Navy, the Air Force, the National Guard, the Coast Guard, the Civil Service, and their spouses.
To Tyler, a 9-year-old who colors pictures and sends them to random nursing homes with the enclosed words: “Thinking of you!” He’s sent 400 pictures so far.
To school teachers. Men and women who deserve a break, but are taking none. Many of whom wake up early each morning to sit in front of a cheap, school-district-issue, unflattering webcam that could make even Sophia Loren look like a walking corpse.
To childcare workers. To road crews. To out-of-work factory workers.
To emergency workers, who know that the world doesn’t stop for viruses. John Q. Public still has toaster-oven fires that need a fire department. Dads still injure themselves on table saws and call EMTs. Children still break their arms when climbing trees and need ER docs.
To police departments, nationwide, who make sure that anyone with criminal intentions, who tries to take advantage of others during this unusual time, will not succeed.
To those who perform church services via the internet. To the tireless church ladies who still bake hot casseroles and deliver them to elderly shut-ins, and have been doing this long before “coronavirus” was a household term.
To my friends who have been sending emails and text messages reminding me to get out of bed and put on real pants.
To anyone who has been video-phoning loved ones just to let them know they love them. To my mother who checks on me and reminds me that she’s praying for me.
To artists. Engineers. Struggling musicians. To foster parents. To those in nursing homes. To the underprivileged kids whose only meals were the ones they got at school.
To the lady on the sidewalk, walking her dog, wearing her surgical mask. Who, when she passed me this morning, said, “Gosh, I wish I could thank the whole world for coming together and helping their fellow man, don’t you?”
Yes, I do.
Thank you. From the bottom of my heart. And may God bless you.