About a year ago, I started spending an inordinate amount of time in hospitals, first in the United States and then in France.
From ER to the day oncology ward via ambulances, my perspective of what service means has been forever altered by all the people I’ve met. From nurses to hospital porters via the paramedic who bent the rules and gave my father an unauthorized ride so he could remain by his wife’s side, each interaction was a lesson in humanity.
Service doesn’t observe traditional holidays, something that can put pressure on family life. Sometimes you know you’re scheduled to work, other times you’re on call but the end result is always the same: Human lives come first and the turkey can wait.
There are countless people whose job is to care for and protect others.
This is because theirs is a job that answers to the desire to be of service, transcending individual motives to serve the common good.
If service is a calling, it is also an industry.
When we think of people working during holidays, we’re more likely to spare a thought for the ER doctor than for the family running the 24-hour convenience store down the road. We don’t think of the gas station employee or the line cook or the bus driver or the diner waitress or the security guard or anyone who works retail.
And yet, they too give up their holidays to be of service to others, albeit in a way that is purely commercial and therefore seldom grabs our attention. Because our interaction is transactional rather than personal, we see them as a commodity rather than a fellow human.
Like nurses and ambulance drivers, they put everyone else before their family every time they work during a holiday. The difference is that they’re not always consulted on the matter or may not even have a choice but they too deserve our thanks.
No one should ever be made to feel invisible.
Nevertheless, some of us spend holidays doing our utmost to forget we even exist so as not to be reminded of our people deficit. Or that we have nowhere to go, no place to call home, or no people of our own.
It happens. If your work is one of those that enables you not just to disappear into it during holidays but to make other people’s life better by doing so, chances are you do. I used to, which meant someone else didn’t have to so it was one of those win-win situations. If the occasion arose again, I would likely take it without second thought for the simple reason that I have no such thing as a standard family life.
So if you are at work today, whatever it is that you do, thank you.
We see you.
I’m a French-American writer, journalist, and editor living out of a suitcase in transit between North America and Europe. To continue the conversation, follow the bird. For email and everything else, deets in bio.