Have you ever seen a grocery worker save the life of a butterfly?
That’s exactly what happened as I was trying to exit the parking lot of my local Trader Joe’s last month and was startled when an employee ran out into the middle of a long line of cars on a busy street and put her hands up into the air, screaming. I was all the way at the back of the line of cars, so I couldn’t really see whether there was an obstacle in the roadway or why she had stopped traffic. But I did watch her as she bent down to the floor and cupped her hands on the ground. Then she slowly raised her body into a standing position with her hands still cupped. About 10 seconds later, a monarch butterfly emerged from her hands, and flew away toward a nearby tree. The butterfly had been on the ground, in the road, struggling to fly, and the woman had run out to save it.
All of a sudden, people who had been frustrated, waiting in their cars and obstructed by the woman with the butterfly, started honking their horns, extending their hands out of their car windows, clapping and cheering “Hoorah!” “Great job!” “Wow!”
I have been in a lot of grocery stores in the many years I have been covering the industry, but this was a first for me, and I was truly amazed.
And I was again reminded that, even with the latest COVID-19 variant putting tremendous pressure on an industry already worn down by a two-year pandemic, grocery workers continue to perform an extraordinary service for our country each and every single day. Whether it’s stopping endangered pollinators from being run over by cars, or keeping checkout lanes open, or saving customers’ lives, as happened at a Fresno, Calif., Save Mart in January, it cannot be said enough: Grocery workers deserve more thanks for their heroic efforts in carrying out essential roles, for selflessly and tirelessly working to bring all of us closer to a return to normal.
I know that the last two years have been a time of great upheaval, loss and uncertainty. I know that in addition to personal challenges, grocery workers today face acute staffing shortages, supply chain problems, angry and sometimes violent customers, and so many other obstacles. But those who are working to keep the grocery industry moving — including retailers, suppliers and solution providers — are the best of the best in America, along with health care workers, teachers and other essential heroes.
That’s why I am especially honored to have been named the new editor-in-chief of Progressive Grocer during its 100th year of service. I am here to usher in the next century of PG’s support and gratitude for our grocery heroes.
So, I want to hear all about the bold and strong actions that all of you are taking to keep America fed. Do you have any butterfly saviors on your staff? Is there a cashier who always manages to give customers a compliment and a smile even through these challenging times? What about the stocker who keeps the aisles and shelves not only full, but also spotless? Do you have an e-commerce picker who is able to pick more orders than everyone else and still offers stellar service? Please contact me with tips, leads or comments about how you are surviving and maybe even thriving during this cascade of crises.
In the meantime, I salute you. I am rooting for you. Always.