Definition: absolutely necessary; extremely important.
Who knew the word essential would take on such significance in 2020?
At midnight on March 17, 2020, Californians were suddenly under lock-down orders due to an unprecedented pandemic. Everyone but essential workers would stay at home, leaving only for exercise (and that on foot or bike) or essential needs like picking up groceries or prescriptions.
Essential workers are those on the front lines: health care workers and first responders; government officials and those employed to maintain needed infrastructure like water, electricity, transportation; grocery workers and minimal restaurant staff; mail carriers and delivery people; and a few others somewhat randomly defined. Yet even essential workers were asked to work from home whenever possible.
My Guy’s a pastor. Pastors inspire hope, essential (anytime and) in a pandemic. He works from home for all but a couple hours each week when a very few people gather to record elements for the now-online services.
Pre-pandemic, I worked at a wine bar. While some might argue that wine is also essential during a pandemic, you don’t have to go to a wine bar to get wine. Our bar closed. Guy can work from home; I can pour wine at home all I want, but I’m no longer paid for it.
He is considered essential; he can continue to do his job. I am not considered essential; my job can’t be done remotely; I can’t do my job.
That right there is the fly in our ointment: essential and essential worker have gotten mashed up-messy like mud pies. Just like we’ve mashed up our occupations and identities since forever. Guy’s job may be that of an essential worker whereas mine is not; however, we are both essential. We are essential because we are.
You are now and will always be essential even if your work is currently not that of an essential worker.
Your occupation occupies a lot (or, currently, little to none) of your time, but what you do is not who you are.
You are who you are; you are not what you do.
Who you are matters regardless of what you do.
I’ll admit, it’s been a struggle. Guy’s done a lot of what he’s always done, plus a few newly-related things, just differently. Meanwhile, now and again I’ve floundered trying to figure out what to do next.
What you do matters, but it doesn’t make up all of you. It doesn’t create your identity. Purpose and Meaning are different.
For example… Purpose: my job required me to pour wine for customers; Meaning: as I poured wine I also offered generous hospitality and, when invited, a listening ear. I made customers happy not just by doing what I had to do but by serving wholeheartedly.
Currently unemployed, I spend a lot of time doing stuff for my family. Most moms know that can be a thankless job but it depends on not just your purpose, the activities that fill your day, but also the meaning you give to those actions. I do dishes and laundry, I cook and clean. But what I’m really doing – the meaning in the purposeful actions – is providing tangible care for the people I love.
Payment doesn’t provide meaning, either. A paycheck doesn’t equal value. I don’t get paid to care for my family. I’m also not getting paid to write these blog posts. But I write because it’s who I am, how I process the world and my place in it, and I hope that my writing extends hope to others. Purpose: I write words. Meaning: I write words that offer hope.
Please remember: You are essential. Whoever you are and whatever you do, you matter. You have purpose (your to-do list, whatever that looks like these days) and meaning (the why behind it). You are unique, one-of-a-kind, with strengths and gifts to offer to a waiting world that needs you. You are absolutely necessary and extremely important. You are loved.