It is early, but my frontrunner for word of the year is “essential.”  We’ve heard it often lately in the context of “essential businesses.” But when life comes in a stripped down version it causes us all to re-evaluate what is essential for our own lives and what are the essential roles we play in the lives of others.

Two of my nephews work at a food distribution center and my sister hauls food across the country in an eighteen wheel truck.  A month ago, few would have considered their jobs essential. How times have changed.

The definition of essential is “absolutely necessary.”   It has become abundantly clear that people who work in food– from farm to table– are absolutely necessary.  It has always been known that healthcare workers are absolutely necessary (although the depths of our appreciation run deeper today – just watch this video).   Our first responders are absolutely necessary. As any parent trying to home school their child has reaffirmed, our teachers are absolutely necessary.  

We have also learned that a well-functioning federal government is absolutely necessary.  So too are governors, state and local officials and workers who in many ways have proved even more essential.

For better or worse, we are seeing that certain technologies are increasingly essential so we can communicate with one another. Family walks have never been more popular – a sign of the essentialness of being outside and getting some exercise.  

Most of all, we are seeing how essential we are to each other.  Even if our job does not define our work as essential, we are discovering or reaffirming how essential we are to each other.  All of our relationships are evolving in extraordinary ways. Ideally strengthening, occasionally fraying.  

If you’re struggling to find what your essential role is right now, then consider this question from Otto Scharmer from the Presencing Institute that was shared with me recently. He writes:

“If we let go of everything that is not essential — what’s left?… Whatever the answer is that emerges for you from this contemplation, keep it in your heart.”

Now in thinking of what is left, think about all the people who make what is essential to you possible.  

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