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The Shadow People

Last month we recognized one of our more bizarre holidays, Groundhog Day.

Published in the March 2023 Issue Published online: Mar 15, 2023 Gregg Losinski
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Last month we recognized one of our more bizarre holidays, Groundhog Day. While the holiday’s track record for prediction of winter duration is dubious at best, what the event has come to represent is more culturally relevant when viewed through the lens of the movie of the same name that just celebrated its 30th anniversary. Because of the movie “Groundhog Day,” people now refer to any series of monotonous mind-numbing repetitive events as being Groundhog Day. Supposedly, if the groundhog sees its shadow, the monotony of winter grinds on.

Groundhog or not, there are people all around us who work in the shadows performing the monotonous tasks that make life easier for the rest of society.

Realistically, many of these people do not work in the shadows. They are in broad daylight all around us doing those tasks that are often vital to human safety and commerce, but for all the recognition they receive they might as well be working in the shadows or the dark of night. We let the apparent drudgery of their tasks blind us to the importance of their work.

Some do indeed work in the dead of night.

As much as people in Idaho Falls might complain about the lack of snow removal, there is a whole army of workers who spend long cold dark nights trying to keep our city streets free of snow. We go to bed with snow-covered streets and wake up with streets that are scraped clean. Our only recollections might be a faint scraping sound penetrating our dreams or a brief period of panic caused by our bedrooms being lit up by amber flashing lights that we mistake for an alien invasion.

There are many other people who work in broad daylight but are hidden by the shadows of our own self-importance.

We go to visit our dentist or doctor who we of course know by name, but we couldn’t come up with the names of the receptionists, nurses and hygienists who also help us. Think about going to your favorite restaurant. Your server always tells you their name, but do you remember it, even if they have helped you many times before? Even if we happen to remember the server’s name, do we even wonder about the cook that makes the food that keeps bringing us back?

The realm of the shadow people is all around us.

We take our cars in for tires and some nameless, faceless person does the dirty work. Every week we trundle our cumbersome garbage bins to the curb and magically they are emptied, and our trash disappears into the shadows.

Sure, they get paid, but do they get our recognition for doing a job well done?  If they screw up, we are sure to press the issue with their manager, but do we ever let the manager just know we appreciate their workers?

With the coming of the internet and then the pandemic many daily tasks like shopping have been automated, but have they really been? Somewhere, whether here or abroad there are people running around, processing the order we made online. Now, each time I go grocery shopping I keep my eyes open for the person pushing a huge cart filling a dozen online orders at once. They have a computer printout in one hand and are watching the clock on their cell phone in the other.  They are hidden in plain sight with customers bustling all around them, getting irritated by the huge cart blocking their favorite brand of potato chips.

The world we live in is full of shadows, some are real, and some are imagined. We all spend our lives wandering in and out of the shadows. We all could be considered shadow people in one way or another, just with different intensities of darkness. Life is often a series of monotonous yet important events. Why not try to make it more pleasant by acknowledging those who help us through the shadows.

Just like with our friend the groundhog, life goes on whether we see our shadow or not!

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