The other day, Starbucks, like many other companies, put on their Instagram account a post offering thanks to health care workers on the frontlines of the COVID-19 crisis. They were giving free coffee as a thank-you for all they are doing for our community during this time.

What a wonderful gesture, right? Of course, it was!

As is often my practice, I was curious what everyone else had to say about this. I started to scroll the comments and most of them were thankful for this. And why wouldn’t they be?

But there were also a number of people focused on, “Well, what about me?!” Several comments underscored what that individual poster did for a living, and why they should be given a free coffee as a thank-you as well.

And with Starbucks being as wonderful as they are, most of these comments were responded to with a, “Yes, you too! We thank you for everything that you are doing.”

So what triggered me to write a blog post about this? Well, it got me thinking about what each of us is doing during this time. How people are harnessing the skills they have to deal with the pandemic, however they can? But more importantly, it got me thinking about how actually AMAZING these people working the frontlines really are!

There were a couple of comments on this particular post asking if mental health workers would be eligible for the free coffee from Starbucks. Their response? “Yes, we thank you for all that you are doing during this time.”

While it made me really happy to be recognized for all the hard work I am doing, I honestly had to disagree with Starbucks on this one.

Now, you will never find me arguing that someone’s mental health is any less important than someone’s physical health (in fact, it is more likely you will find me arguing the opposite!). But I am NOT a frontlines worker! I am not going to work every day covered in personal protective equipment to safeguard myself from contracting a potentially deadly virus. I am not coming home every day unable to hug my kids at the door.

I am able to do my job sitting six feet away from my client or from the comfort of my empty office with the safety of a computer screen in between me and the person I am helping.

I am in no way meaning to downplay the importance of therapy at this time (it is SUPER important) or diminish the value of the service being provided by myself or my colleagues (again, the exact opposite!) But this is a time for us to take a step back and appreciate what these health care providers on the actual frontlines of this crisis are doing for us. They are putting themselves and their families at risk every day in order to protect us and our families.

As I continued to scroll through the comments on the Starbucks post, people were asking what about veterinarians and other medical professionals that are not directly related to anything having to do with COVID-19.

To these comments, Starbucks politely explained that certain individuals, while regarded as essential employees during this time, are not considered on the frontlines and therefore not going to be given a free coffee in this promotion. And these responses were met with a lot of backlash. People were upset that they were not being recognized in the same way as ER nurses and doctors or pharmacy techs.

Come on, guys! This is not a time to be asking, “What about me?!” This is a time to focus on what we can do for each other. How we can support those who are going to help us get through this crisis, and how can we support those who are losing so much during this time?

So tonight, when I hug my kids and put them to bed, without worrying that by having done my job today I may have infected them with COVID-19, my heart goes out to the frontlines workers who are not able to do the same.

And I hope THEY are able to enjoy their free Starbucks coffee!

Talya Knable, psychotherapist and Jmore parenting columnist, stands in her Lutherville home. (Photo by Steve Ruark)
(Photo by Steve Ruark)

Jmore parenting columnist Talya Knable is a psychotherapist who lives in Lutherville with her husband, Stephen, and their two children, Jack and Leigh. Her website is tkpsych.com/. She is also the assistant clinical director of Shalom Tikvah (shalomtikvah.org/), a local non-profit organization that supports Jewish families facing mental illness and other challenging life circumstances.