While living through this CoVid-19 isolation period I’ve found myself repeating the phrase “I don’t feel safe, so I …” at least a few times each week. I have not thought much about it until now.
A few days ago at the grocery store on one of my efficient, list-generated, mask-wearing shopping trips, I overheard two masked female employees talking to one another. Listening to their English and Spanish mash-up, while I searched for a certain kind of diced tomatoes, I realized they were talking about feeling safe during this pandemic.
Despite a great employer (the store is known for its concern for its employees) and all sorts of steps to keep the store safe) they worried together about their health working there every day. They expressed their concern for catching CoVid-19 and infecting their families. And they felt annoyance for customers who do not shop safely (when I am there precisely because it feels like the safest grocery store).
The conversation stopped me in my tracks, and it took extra effort to move on with my shopping. But that little chat also made me reflect on my life during this troubling time. Those women do not get to choose to feel safe. I do. When I say “I don’t feel safe” to myself, and especially when I say it aloud or online, I am demonstrating, front and center, the privilege that I have in my CoVid-19 era life.
I get to choose where and when I go, and any work I do I can accomplish at home. If I don’t feel like a particular grocery store or nature path is safe, I don’t go. If I don’t want to shop for something in a store, I use curbside pick-up. If the people in a certain place do not wear masks, I don’t go there. But I make these choices because I possess the privilege to make them and the privilege to say, “I don’t feel safe.” Many, many other people do not have that advantage when it comes to going through life in the CoVide-19 era.
Why do I say it? I wonder if my use of the phrase serves as a way to express my irritation and frustration with the people who do not behave as I think they should, people who make me feel less secure. Perhaps I am focusing too much on the other folks and what I think they should be doing? If so, perhaps I need to spend less energy judging what others are doing.
In any event, I intend to stop using the words. “I don’t feel safe…”
From now on, every time I find myself using that phrase — aloud or in my head — I am depositing one dollar in a dish. I’ll attempt to use my privilege more constructively by sending the money in that dish — in addition to my regular contribution — to one of the food support organizations in my town.