Geoffrey Owens is an actor best known for his role as Elvin on The Cosby Show, who has also had recent roles on It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia, Billions and The Affair. In 2018, a photo of him working at Trader Joe’s, taken without his knowledge, went viral – and led to Owens bringing attention to the job insecurity actors face and rejecting any “job shaming,” saying “There is no job that’s better than another job … Every job is worthwhile and valuable.” As grocery workers are deemed essential during the coronavirus pandemic, often putting their own health at risk to go to work at a time when people are being told to stay at home and observe social distancing protocols, Owens offers his insight as to the sacrifices these employees are making.
When I worked at Trader Joe’s, some people called me a ”hero.” They dubbed me this because I’d been a featured and popular figure on The Cosby Show and yet was willing to take a “regular job.” No ingratitude or disrespect intended to anyone who thought of me that way, but I must politely disagree: I was not, am not, a “hero.”
The real heroes are the people who, right now, are working at Trader Joe’s, as well as so many other grocery stores and supermarkets, throughout this country and throughout the world. In handling, organizing and serving food products to us, these people, like our medical caregivers, are literally risking their lives for our good. This is true heroism.
I worked at Trader Joe’s for 15 months. There was no ”heroism” involved; I did it, completely of necessity, in order to provide for myself and my family. During that time, I worked with colleagues who had done that work — that difficult work — day after day, week after week, month after month, for years. Some of them were older than I, in their sixties and seventies. I remember thinking to myself, “I couldn’t do it.”
Rich Graessle/Icon Sportswire via Getty Shoppers line up outside Trader Joe’s during COVID-19 crisis
I admired these colleagues more than I can describe. I admire them even more now. When the Coronavirus is gone, let’s not forget what these workers have done – what they do. It’s so easy to take them for granted, but what we should be saying to them every day is “Thank you for your service.”
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