It doesn't take much searching to come across videos online of angry Karens screaming at defenseless cashiers or waitresses. I've personally ended many a shift in tears, hopeless and convinced that kindness is a dying art. I've never understood how people can find it in themselves to be rude to an employee who is already grossly underpaid and overworked, but I suspect it has everything to do with our society's surplus of entitlement and self-interest. Also, people who haven't worked in the service sector just don't have an appreciation for how demanding the work can be sometimes.
All this to say, I've noticed an interesting trend in the last few months. Ever since the Coronavirus pandemic penetrated public consciousness, most service companies — restaurants, retail locations, delivery companies, ride share services, event venues, etc. — have made thanking their employees a priority through advertising and marketing campaigns. Even when I scroll through Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter, all I see are posts urging shoppers and customers to be kind to those working on the front-lines. People's eyes are opening to the important functions that these men and women perform day in and day out. What would life be like if you turned up at a restaurant and no one was there to serve you, or if you shopped at a grocery store but no one was there to help you find what you needed?
At first, I couldn't help but wonder why it takes something as horrible as a pandemic to elicit empathy. The mistreatment and dehumanization of service staff has been happening for many years, and affects a large portion of the population (in America, an estimated 107.8 million people are employed in the service industry, with retail alone claiming 10% of total employment.) These jobs are temporary for some, but many others depend on them for survival and to provide for their families. We need the judgement towards service jobs and employees to change -- and it seems that it has already.
The Coronavirus pandemic has created a sharp divide in the American workplace -- and even the economy -- by defining which jobs are "essential" and which ones aren't. Unsurprisingly, it seems that the least-paid, hardest-working employees are the ones that keep our basic way of life afloat -- who knew? A new appreciation is blossoming for these hardworking employees, and small acts of kindness are cropping up all over the place to express it. This isn't only taking place in the service industry; people everywhere have rallied together to show their support for the doctors and nurses working hard to keep everyone safe.
A general feeling of goodwill has taken hold of many of the American people, and instead of fearing the virus they are finding ways to spread joy and support each other. People have been more giving in this hard time, and many charities and organizations are raising money specifically for disadvantaged populations. Celebrities are coming together to entertain us in new, creative ways (ex: remote, televised concerts and skits; Parks and Rec's remote reunion episode; online web series such as John Krasinski's "Some Good News" and Josh Gad's "Reunited Apart.")
If this virus has shown me anything, it's that there is no limit to human creativity, and that when times get rough there are always good people willing to sacrifice to help others. My heart goes out to the people working on the front lines right now, but my sincere hope is that when the virus dies down and people aren't scared anymore, they remember who it was that took care of them during the roughest year in recent history.