What a week. Between Covid, Afghanistan, and now Hurricane Ida I think of all the people who are risking their lives to provide us with health, protection, or even news. The armed forces, health care professionals, weather reporters, FEMA staff, or front-line rescuers — we expect them to be there when we walk into a hospital, dial 911, or tune into emergency reports, without always considering their sacrifices to do so. Moments after Ida made landfall I was seeing pictures, but someone had to be in close proximity to the 150 mph winds to take and share them. In order for Louisiana staff to be at the hospital to serve patients, they had to allow their families to ride out the storm without them.

Even ordinary circumstances require people to work in risky or undesirable positions. In his book Dirty Work, author Eyal Press highlights prison employees, laborers in chicken slaughterhouses and processing plants, and drone warriors who all fall into the “dirty work” category. For the most part, we never think about any of these positions or what could be done to make the conditions more tolerable for those who hold them, yet we expect people to work in those roles.

As you start the week, take a moment to reflect on the many layers of people you unknowingly rely on to keep your community functioning in the way to which you have become accustomed. Someone is keeping the power on, the cows milked, the grocery stores stocked and the schools open. People are walking into dangerous situations to keep terrorists at bay, fires under control, and jails locked down.

If you think it is difficult to find employees for a retail operation or in the hospitality industry, consider what it takes to recruit and retain quality staff in the undesirable roles — yet we all need people to be there. Raise your awareness, appreciation, and advocacy to create safe and sane working conditions for all.

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