Across North America, there is holiday planning happening. The pandemic has changed planning, but most people are still doing their best to eke out some pleasure from a period that is often considered one of the most joyous of the year.
I hope everyone reading this is planning a happy holiday, but my heart will be with everyone whose holiday planning, also changed by the pandemic, will be very different from the restful and peaceful time most people envisage.
My heart is with the soldiers, ready to deploy across the country to serve. They will be in indigenous communities and long term care hospitals. They will be learning about a new vaccine and delivering that vaccine to the lucky people getting the best holiday present ever: immunity from COVID-19.
My heart is with public health doctors and nurses and those supporting them, working night and day to deliver that vaccine as quickly as possible. They are the people giving up their family time and peaceful break for you and me and our health. They are doing this mostly unheralded or, even worse, being called out as the Grinch for advising against the gatherings so many crave. I cannot even imagine what it must feel like to have people rail at you because of restrictions for the entire time you are working to save their lives!
My heart is with every one of my colleagues in medicine and nursing, choosing which part of the holiday to work, hoping that the cases will not climb to the point where they will have to come to work even when they’re supposed to be off. I am one of them and I know what this feels like, to hope you will get even a few days to rest all the while knowing that you will work if you must.
What I wish would stop is the “advice”. The messages to “be strong”, the “tips on resilience”, the endless boxes of chocolate meant to be a balm for overwork, the thoughtful and heartfelt “thank you’s” are ringing hollow.
Many people who work in essential services have been strong for nine months. We’d like the break that the holiday could bring, but we will manage. We are burnt out, but it is not in our nature to leave our roles.
There are people who realize that the task undertaken by essential workers is near impossible. It is a task that most could not manage, but essential workers are, and especially health care providers are. To those who would like for us to take a moment to listen to “advice”, let me remind them of the words of George Bernard Shaw.