The Israelites also wept again, and said, “If only we had meat to eat...now our strength is dried up, and there is nothing at all but this manna to look at.” - Numbers 11:4, 6 (NRSV)
We’ve all been thinking about essential workers lately. Everything would have ground to a halt, then imploded, long ago without their doughtiness and dedication. I thank God for them as the Israelites must have thanked God for manna when it first fell in the desert.
And yet, the phrase “essential workers” is incomplete. What we’re really talking about is “workers essential to the minimal functioning of a society.” There is other work no less essential to humanity. The Israelites needed manna, but that wasn’t all they needed. We need healthcare and food and sanitation services, but those aren’t all that’s necessary.
Abraham Maslow put it most cogently with his famous hierarchy of needs. There are some things you need to stay alive. If you don’t have those, nothing else will matter much. Other things you need to stay human, and even if you can’t address them unless other more basic needs are met, that doesn’t mean they’re not essential. You can need meat and be grateful for manna at the same time.
So thank God for the basics, and for all who are working hard to provide them. Thank God, too, for those providing things essential for full—not just minimal—life: authors, pastors, musicians, actors, film and TV makers, teachers, game designers, curators of outdoor spaces, artists, dancers, therapists, comedians, coaches, podcasters, pray-ers, puzzle makers, worship leaders, and more.
It’s good to be alive. It’s even better to be human.
For those that make it possible for us to be alive, O God, and for those who make it possible for us to be human, hear our great thanksgiving. Amen.
Quinn G. Caldwell is a father, husband, homesteader and preacher living in rural upstate New York. His most recent book is a series of daily reflections for Advent and Christmas called All I Really Want: Readings for a Modern Christmas. Learn more about it and find him on Facebook at Quinn G. Caldwell.