an epitaph for justice


Only in moments of crisis do we begin to re-evaluate all that has held us until this very moment. What really matters? 

That job, that project, that mammon is all worthless. 

In the midst of Covid-19, the epidemic of our century, the hidden societal structures have come to light. Who keeps producing food? The hidden agricultural workers. Who gets the food to us? The hidden transportation and delivery network. Who serves us the food? Grocery and restaurant workers. Who keeps the lights on? Who keeps the water running? Who keeps our environment clean and orderly? Who gets rid of our waste?

The individual cell in the human family is truly negligent to believe that it alone has brought forth the world unto itself.

How is that, these most essential people are so disregarded, underpaid, or under-recognized? Is the teacher so much less valuable than the executive? Is the sanitation worker any less valiant and brave than the police officer? 

Here in Pittsburgh, sanitation workers have gone on strike, asking for personal protection equipment and hazard pay as they work to continue to remove the physical waste that we generate. They too, are on the frontlines of keeping our society operating. Even on a less critical occasion, sanitation workers have the most dangerous public service work, not only because of handling heavy machinery, but the many environmental hazards that come with dealing with our monstrous waste.

A number of years ago, I was visiting the Bible Museum in DC. As I sat in an atrium eating lunch, I saw a janitorial staff lady clean and wipe down a glass door so it was spotless. People walking through the door inevitably left fingerprints and smudges. Every couple of minutes, the same staff person came and wiped it down again, leaving it spotless, only for more people to walk through. Nevertheless, she persisted.

This was one of the most beautiful scenes I have observed. The display of faithfulness still has me in awe – the distillation of what is essential. How I pray that in the midst of this Great Lent, that we repent of how we have neglected the essential, the good portion, those who are blessed. Let us change our ways and demand justice for those who are essential.