Do You See Your Work as Essential?


The last year and a half have brought a great deal of financial hardship and suffering to a great many institutions: religious, arts, theatres, etc. We’ve become members of a number of organizations and donated to many more. I have operated under the belief that I will throw $20 towards everything that brought our lives value and meaning in Before Times, in hope that they will still be around in the After Times.

In the last few months though, I’ve shifted that belief. Especially in a post-vaccine world where we’re still behaving as though it’s the spring of 2020, I’m through being nice. I’ve decided to donate and participate in institutions that view their work as essential, and as such, have tried as best they can to operate normally. Synagogues that opened their doors to my kids and shifted their programming outside, summer camps that did the same, non-profits like Mount Vernon that went to the drawing board and created and expanded their outdoor events as creatively as possible.

Anyone who thought their entire mission could be accomplished online need not apply. Did you close your doors for over a year and now require masking and distancing my small children outdoors as a condition for their participation? I’m sorry, we’re done here. Do you think that all of your programming can be done on Zoom? Well then, I suppose you don’t need my contributions any longer. And no, I won’t be attending a classical musical concert online. That’s not “attending” a concert, that’s watching, and I can do that on YouTube.

With all of the fundraising letters and emails that roll in that talk about the “vital and essential” work these organizations and institutions do, the COVID year and a half (and counting) have been very instructive. If your belief is that you can take off from that work for that amount of time, your work is clearly neither vital nor essential, and my money is better spent elsewhere.

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  1. EJHill Podcaster

    I’ll ask @blueyeti.

    • #1
  2. Buckpasser Member

    I love it when the government (my betters) tells me I’m not essential.

    • #2
  3. Stad Coolidge

    I remember during the potential government shutdown against Obama, several of us were told we were “non-essential” and I was happy.  That meant that we would not come in to work during the shutdown, and when we returned, we were almost guaranteed to receive all of our pay retroactively.  In other words, a free vacation on the taxpayer!

    But on a more serious note, there’s something wrong-possibly evil-about government deciding what is essential or not at any time for any reason.  Hurricane Katrina?  Second Amendment rights non-essential!  COVID spreading?  No religious ceremonies!

    • #3
  4. David Foster Member
    David Foster

    I have been a fan of the Hudson Valley Shakespeare Theater, which has a beautiful location right across the river from West Point and does its performances in a half-open/half-closed tent structure.  For this season, they announced that attendees must:

    –provide proof of vaccination, and
    –wear a mask throughout the performance, and
    –be ‘socially-distant’, with reduced seating

    All this, in a structure which is extremely airy. 

    Didn’t go this year.



    • #4
  5. David Foster Member
    David Foster

    Also: as far as businesses go, I question the government’s ability to make rational decisions about essentiality.  As an example, last year GE Healthcare was asked to urgently increase production of ventilators.  Turned out that they had been accustomed to using the services of a small local vendor for 3-D printing….and that vendor had been closed down as ‘nonessential’.

    GE was able to pull some strings and get the vendor back in businesses…and they apparently also had other potential sources for the work…but I’m sure there were many cases in the Covid response supply chain where things did not go so well.


    • #5
  6. EJHill Podcaster

    David Foster: I have been a fan of the Hudson Valley Shakespeare Theater, which has a beautiful location right across the river from West Point and does its performances in a half-open/half-closed tent structure.

    Did you catch James Delingpole’s review of an outdoor pageant in England on this week’s London Calling?


    • #6
  7. Full Size Tabby Member
    Full Size Tabby

    I read Bethany’s complaint not as about government deciding whether some function is “essential,” but about charitable, educational, religious, and social organizations that are now calling themselves “essential” for purposes of fundraising, but have been closed for the last 18 months. The 18 month closure demonstrates that they do not really consider themselves to be “essential.”

    I disagree with Bethany’s approach in that I will at least consider donating or providing other support to an organization that has been closed for the last 18 months. Though I will still bristle if they claim to be “essential,” as they are obviously not. They may be “nice to have” or “make life more pleasant.” I might still consider them worthy of my support. But it is Bethany’s prerogative to focus her support on organizations that meet the criteria she prefers. 

    • #7
  8. HankRhody Freelance Philosopher Contributor
    HankRhody Freelance Philosopher

    My local library spent all last year on two tasks. One was devising newer and more creative ways to restrict the library (make an appointment to drive up and pick your books up off of a shelf.) The other was asking people to donate towards the upcoming building expansion.

    • #8
  9. Blue Yeti Admin
    Blue Yeti

    EJHill (View Comment):

    I’ll ask @ blueyeti.

    @ejhill, your work is essentially essential. 

    • #9
  10. Podkayne of Israel Member
    Podkayne of Israel

    OK, I’ll bite. I am an RN at Shalva, a private institution for the support of special needs kids and their families. We have an integrative pre-school, integrated day care, Mommy and Me, and a program for teaching workplace skills to special needs youth over age 21. I work mostly with the afternoon program, where we run activities and feed them a snack and a light supper (Before COVID, it was a hot meal in our dining hall, now it’s a sandwich and fruit.). We have some kids who need tube feedings, others who have seizures, and a lot who are just unsteady on their feet and fall down a lot, and I take care of all that and advise our National Service volunteers and employees on who’s really sick, and who just needs a cup of tea.

    We are essential enough that we have been open all through the pandemic, except for a few weeks when everything here in Israel was locked down. We have recently re-started our respite housing, so the kids have fun, and their parents get a night or a Shabbat off from what would otherwise be a difficult burden indeed.

    When we first started back, I was checking temperatures and oxygen levels on every single kid, but now not so much. Staff are supposed to mask in public areas, but we cannot expect that from most of the kids. I have been vaccinated and given the 2 boosters, as has the rest of the staff and the kids who are over 16. A lot of us have sat through quarantine periods, and many have been sick with the virus, but so far, thank G-d, I have not been ill at all, even though I have been exposed (while masked) to a a few kids who later proved “positive”. None of the kids who were sick had to be hospitalized, and most of them had only mild symptoms, if any.

    I have zero patience for anybody (especially teachers) who claim to be “essential” but who have stayed home. Nobody dies when our programs are closed, but we know very well how much the kids love us and their parents need our support. 

    • #10
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