I always thought it was important to be . . . essential.
Someone who is essential is crucial, needed, indispensable, valuable. If you are essential, the world cannot go on without you.
If, on the other hand, you are not essential. you realize pretty quickly that you're not of much value, that you're not really needed, that your worth is insignificant. If the non-essential people don't show up, the world will carry on just fine.
I'm thinking a lot about that word "essential" these days because it keeps showing up in the declarations of our government. Certain jobs, we're told, are essential -- and other jobs are not. And if that's true, it probably follows that certain people are essential . . . and others are not.
At least, that's what we are inclined to think.
I know a young woman who cleans medical clinics at night. It's her second job. And, honestly, that job doesn't look like much, but these days it is considered an essential job. (Interestingly, this woman's day job is essential as well -- so we're probably all in her debt! Imagine somebody with two essential jobs!)
After finishing work in the late afternoon each day, she puts on her janitor clothes and dons her mask and blue surgical gloves and she cleans medical offices. It's risky work these days. She worries about the germs and she worries about the noxious fumes of the heavy-duty disinfectants. Her friends tell her that she should quit that night job, but she can't help it; she needs to pay the bills. She doesn't get paid much to be a janitor. But she also knows that if she doesn't do a good job, people might get sick. And these days, that matters a lot.
This woman is almost invisible, but she is essential. And if she doesn't show up, we will all pay a price. Which is so important to remember in this world where we dismiss certain jobs (and, yes, certain people) as without value, as insignificant, as non-essential. These are the people we think we could do fine without.
But it seems to me that every job is essential. And it seems to me that every person is essential as well.
In 1977, a dear friend gave me a book. I found that book in a box downstairs this week. Written by Ann Kiemel, the book is entitled It's Incredible! It was 43 years ago that I first read the book -- and I still remember one passage. Ann Kiemel made the claim that "no one is unimportant" and she then illustrated her claim with these words:
All the people in the world
who have poured their BEST into every day,
and given years of earnest service in Christ's Name,
must be cherished by Him.
He always judges our hearts
more than the visible results.
The janitors and street sweepers and bricklayers
and gas station attendants and factory workers --
well, who ever decided that THEY aren't the great people of the world?
I first read those words in 1977, and they still stop me in my tracks.
Of all the people in the world, those who follow Jesus should know this well: we are all essential. Every single person is essential. And a key part of our ministry, as followers of Jesus, is to be certain that every person knows that. In fact, maybe that's a good message for us to share with people these days: that we cannot make it without them, that they are needed, that they are absolutely essential.
Of course, it's the rich and the famous and the powerful who get most of the attention. That's simply the way of the world, and there's probably no way to change that.
But what that janitor does every night to get things ready for my doctor visit the next morning . . . is just about the most important job in the world.
In fact, that janitor is downright essential. And I am thankful for her diligent and faithful labor.