Acknowledging the People Absent From the Thanksgiving Table

By Nicole Zanchelli 

Millions of Americans will wake up on Thanksgiving day and hustle to the kitchen to baste a turkey, bake sweet potatoes and mix stuffing. Wiping the sweat from their brow, they will sit down at the table, surrounded by their loved ones, and feast upon home cooked meals. 

This is the basic Thanksgiving tradition that brings families together in the name of good company, and of course, good food.  

But what about the people whose work day does not cease for a national holiday? What about the hearty Americans who cannot break bread with their families because duty calls?

According to an Allstate/National Journal poll, roughly 1 in 4 Americans will be working on either Thanksgiving, Christmas, or New Year’s Day. 

Doctors, nurses, retail workers, police officers, firefighters and entrepreneurs alike report to their job while their families fraternize at home. 

Brianna Cohen, a nurse at Morristown Medical Center in New Jersey, shares her experience working nine to 1o hour shifts on Thanksgiving. 

Because of Brittany Marie’s specialty of behavioral health, the holidays can be particularly hard and triggering for people. Photo Courtesy of Brittany Marie.

“The hours are annoying, but it’s mostly spending it without everyone else and missing out or rushing home to try and not miss anything,” Cohen said. “Most of the time we try to do a potluck for the workers so we all kind of bond. But the patients also are not happy they are there and it’s like a 50/50 gamble they’re going to take it out on you.”

However, many people claim they don’t mind working on Thanksgiving and missing out on family time. 

“I don’t mind it, because for me it is a planned event, but for my patients, it’s not,” said Brittany Marie, a psychiatric emergency room nurse at Orange Regional Medical Center.

“Because of my specialty being behavioral health, the holidays can be particularly hard and triggering for people. Family conflict or absence of family plays a big part in why I see patients on the holidays,” Marie continued. 

Beverly Burns, a supervisor at New York State Office of Children and Family Services at Highland Residential Center, shares Marie’s sentiment about the importance of showing up for the people who depend on you. 

“I never minded working holidays; it was usually a relaxed day, and the kids in the facilities would be somewhat down and boosting the morale was important. Most of us knew we were working a job that was open 24/7 and holidays were part of the responsibility,” Burns expressed.

“Much like hospitals and police, we know it is part of the job and helping people is our passion. Holidays have so many expectations. Many people struggle during the holidays [and] I felt it was important to make the day go as smoothly for everyone,” Burns continued.

There are also people who consciously decide to work on the holiday due to their dedication to their job. 

“Some of us choose to work the holiday,” said Melissa Neely, owner of Miracle Mineral, an online jewelry store. “I love pet sitting and running my Etsy shop, and my family does Thanksgiving on Saturday. [It’s the] best of both worlds!” 

From the perspective of Amberly Campbell, a publisher for the Shawangunk Journal, “news never stops, so we don’t either.”

While her family cuts the turkey and places the stuffing on the table, Campbell will be checking social media sites, updating various sites, sharing articles to social media and keeping tabs on News Atomic and their digital platform.

“I just don’t like to not know what’s happening…total FOMO [fear of missing out]” Campbell said.

Society still has to function, even on a holiday like Thanksgiving. It’s this 25% of the workforce that make it possible for the rest of us to enjoy our time off with our families, and for that, we salute you.

Story originally published by The New Paltz Oracle

Nicole Zanchelli

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