Like so many others around the city and across the country I spent last week watching the horrors of Hurricane Harvey unfold and bring complete havoc to our southern neighbors in Texas. One particular morning while sitting in front of the television, listening to those grieve over all that had been lost, I began to cry. Such pain, so much destruction and yet, in the midst of what will be the absolute worst time that some will experience in their lifetimes, we began to see images of light and love shine through.
One of my favorite stories to emerge was that of the four bakers who were trapped in the El Bolillo Bakery in Houston and would spend the next two days making hundreds of loaves of bread and pan dulce for hurricane victims. After realizing they could not leave the bakery (due to the flooding) following their late shift, these four men proceeded to use 4,400 pounds of flour to bake the items that they would then give to those in need once they were able to leave the store.
“Brian Alvarado, the manager of the shop on South Wayside Drive, told The Independent: ‘When they realized they were stuck, they decided to keep themselves busy and help the community and made as many loaves of bread as they could.’”
They toiled away silently, surrounded by darkness, with no one knowing the true value in their labor until daybreak exposed it to the rest of us. This was a reminder, for me, of all the silent laborers by whom we are surrounded, who work tirelessly every day and without whom our lives would not be nearly as functional as they are.
Our children’s school janitorial staff that arrives before any of us do and stays long after the school’s doors have been locked. They quietly go about cleaning every nook and cranny so that our children are educated in a clean environment. With their gloves and buckets and sanitizing supplies they come into the classroom when there has been an accident and expeditiously- silently- make it right. How many of us even know their names? How many of us would recognize their faces outside of the school environment and stop, wherever we are, to say thank you for doing so much behind the scenes to ensure our children’s play can continue without interruption?
Our farmers. My God- our farmers who wake up at times they consider morning but I still consider night. They leave the comfort of their oft-modest homes to work countless hours so that you and I can have food on our tables. For many there is no such thing as “overtime pay” when the clock has registered their ninth, tenth, fourteenth hour of work. I stopped complaining about the cost of my lettuce going up twenty cents once a year after learning what the life of a farmer really entails. Through personal anecdotes from those who live in my neighborhood and several moving documentaries I’ve seen over the past couple of years, my respect for these pillars of our community has grown profoundly. The next time you drive past a parcel of farm land, pull over for just a few minutes. Watch how these men and women labor, in silence, pulling and pushing, perspiring and puncturing skin along the way so that you and I can have what are deemed basic necessities by which to live.
Today, Labor Day, many of us are celebrating a rare day off and an opportunity to spend time with family and friends, enjoying the fruits of our own labor. Yet let’s also take a moment to celebrate those who silently, and often anonymously, work to keep the fruit accessible and whose names we may not know but whose works are evident in almost every area of our lives. Their silence is golden; for their labor, we are most grateful.