May 4, 2020
By Jessica Di Santo, Senior Director of Communications at United Way of Central Indiana
A friend of mine sent me this picture while walking on Indianapolis’ Monon Trail. We’ve seen dozens of signs, chalk drawings and artworks, like this, cropping up all over our central Indiana neighborhoods. I love how Hoosiers are trying to keep hope alive, remind us of what’s important, and maybe even help us re-think our words during this health and economic crisis.
I looked at this simple word and thought, the definition of ‘essential’ feels very differently all of a sudden.
We humans know the essential elements of survival: food, water and shelter. Also essential are those first responders and medical professionals — risking their own lives every day — to save us from accidents, illness and disease.
For those parents out there, like me, who are at home trying to guide children through e-learning assignments, quizzes and tests, we know our educators are essential. I now realize more than ever that I am not at all a qualified math teacher, a science teacher, a band teacher, or even a school counselor.
As an employee of United Way, I hear first-hand what food banks, community centers, childcare facilities, senior centers, and health organizations are facing on a regular basis during this crisis. These folks are our extremely humble and essential heroes – they are working tirelessly, under impossible conditions, to help those already suffering from a lack of basic needs and now trying to serve a growing population of individuals and families who suddenly find themselves in a desperate situation with no job, not enough food and no income.
And being a daughter to older parents who are sheltered at home, I now think of the word “essential” in relationship to my mom. She’s trying to keep her business running during this time. She’s still donating blood when she can and volunteering (safely) to help foster children. She’s taking care of my father ‘round the clock, who needs a hefty dose of daily medication to be pain-free and comfortable. She’s a lifeline to her employees. She’s the savior to that child without a parent. She’s essential to my father’s health and well-being. And that makes her essential to me.
Who is essential? Indiana defines it as anyone “working in the industries that provide sustenance, necessities of life, health, education, employment and care to others.” I agree. But in essence, aren’t we all essential? We are all connected. We all have a part to play in this community. We are all in this together.
When you see the “Essential” sign, who do you think is essential to your life? We want to hear from you! Tell us by using #essential on social media and tag @uwci for us to reshare.