As a singer, choir director, and music educator, my career role in society has always been deemed non-essential. With the current emphasis on STEM-based education* and the centrality of organized sports, the arts are always vulnerable to budget cuts, even at the university level.
However, the arts require focus and discipline. They have been proven to develop critical thinking and creative problem-solving, important skills for anyone who wants to become innovative, adaptive, and resilient. And arts such as drama, dance, opera, and performance in choirs, bands, and orchestras require a cooperative mindset, the ability to collaborate and bring out the best in each individual in order to meet a common goal.
I'd say those qualities are essential to our future on this planet.
Perhaps we don't intend to label and characterize jobs and people as "essential" or "non-essential," but we have done so in our response to COVID-19. And it makes sense – some businesses and jobs are life-and-death vital, and some are not.
I deeply appreciate all of the health care workers, first responders, grocery clerks, delivery personnel, janitors, sanitation engineers, bus drivers, and others who have worked so hard to provide critical services during the past few months. We could not survive without them.
But I also appreciate my hairdresser, my massage therapist, and the friendly servers at my favorite breakfast place who were all labeled non-essential and were thus unable to work. I miss the cast and crew of Broadway Sacramento, the pastor at my church, and my town's librarians.
My husband, a 6th grade teacher, missed his students this spring, and reports that Zoom meetings and online lessons could never take the place of day-to-day contact in the classroom. Yet he appreciates parents who stepped up to supervise and facilitate their kids' distance learning.
We are all essential to someone.
Parents are essential to their children, and those kids are essential to parents, grandparents, teachers, and the world. All workers are essential to the people they support, whether that means other vendors who supply them, or the families who rely on their income. My dad used to say that when you smiled at someone you were making the world better. That's pretty darn essential too.
You are essential to me. Thank you for reading.
*STEM is the acronym for Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics.
Photo by Samuel Sianipar on Unsplash