Today is My Sister’s 40th and She is Spending it at Work

Today is my sister Alli’s 40th birthday and she is spending the day at work. She might not have wanted to go but she felt like she had to. Unlike many of us who are hunkered down with our families and avoiding crowds, she is encountering hundreds of people a day. She is in what many have been calling, “The Front Lines.” Alli works at a Lucky’s Market, a grocery store in my home town, Cleveland. Some of her co-workers have decided to stay home. After all, that’s what we’re being told to do but not everyone has that luxury. My sister and her co-workers who are sticking it out everyday are the ones keeping the food flowing, restocking the shelves with the things we now call essentials: coffee, wine, and toilet paper. They are working around the clock — longer hours than usual because they are understaffed, coming in earlier so elderly people can shop alone, and remaining there long after you leave to disinfect the store.

Doctors, police officers, trash collectors, mail carriers, amazon workers–the list goes on–are working on the front lines so that the rest of us, can stay home. Not everyone can work remotely. And not everyone can afford to stay at home.

In the last few weeks, the stress level has increased daily. I know when I’m stressed, I’m not always on my best behavior. I get snippy and sometimes take it out on the wrong people–usually my kids and especially my husband. But I know in the past, I have been short with someone who really didn’t deserve it. Someone I didn’t even know. And later, have felt regretful (Catholic guilt.)

My sister has been on the receiving end of alot of snippiness in the last few weeks. People have been short with her, asked her not to touch their produce (then how does she weigh it?), asked her if she can bag any faster instead helping her bag. And few have said thank you. I get it. We are on edge and distracted by everything going on. But Alli keeps going to work–even on her birthday and tries to treat these people politely and with a smile. Even when she explained to me how toxic the atmosphere had become, she wasn’t complaining; she was empathetic saying she understood that people are just stressed out and she’s trying to not take it personally. But you know what? It gets her down.

My sister has faced many challenges in her life–more than most of us–yet still maintains a bottomless reserve of generosity and empathy for people. I’ve always admired her determination and courage against all odds. It is so “Alli” to keep going to work even when everyone else running for cover. She always does the right thing, the selfless thing. As always, I am so proud of her.

I would like to ask is that you try to be patient and show appreciation every time you encounter one of these people who are trying to keep our world running as smoothly as possible during this chaotic and uncertain time. Just please remember to say thank you. Say, “Thank you for being here and doing what you do.” It will make a bigger difference than you can imagine for the person on the receiving end. If you’re thinking something nice, say it.

And if you happen to see my little sister at Lucky’s today, don’t forget to say “Happy Birthday.” After praying for a sister for years as a kid, I finally got this gem 40 years ago today.

And a huge thank you to everyone that is keeping our shelves stocked, our trash cans empty, and our streets safe; for getting our mail, newspapers and packages delivered; for serving our favorite takeout foods curbside; and for treating us when we’re in sick and in need. We are so grateful!


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Author: Heather Zachariah

Former Art Director for Home Magazine, Heather Leahy Zachariah, left her career in publishing after baby number number one. She now works from home as a freelance graphic designer and a chauffeur to her 3 busy kids. "Working on TipsFromTown has been a wonderful outlet for me. It renewed my love of publishing where I can design colorful, enticing pages online and allows me to share the things I love about being a mom." Heather grew up in Shaker Heights, Ohio, a place that still is near and dear to her. " After living in Brooklyn for 18 years and studying Graphic Design at Pratt Institute, she now lives in the Jersey burbs. "I love living so close to NYC, but in my heart, I'm an Ohio girl."

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