The grocer, a Real American Hero, is the public face of a long line of millions of strangers from around the world who, pursuing their own self interests, truly enable the American standard of living.
In super stores, supermarkets, mom and pop shops and markets around the country, the grocers perform a remarkable task every morning. Food stocks removed from the shelves by yesterday's shoppers are replaced and merchandised, produce is sorted, trucks are unloaded and delis are filled with prepared foods, meats and cheeses. Future food deliveries are ordered, the floors are swept, cashier stations are prepared and an astounding amount of rubbish is removed to the compactor out back.
All this is done to satisfy customers from every class, color, creed and occupation who, in turn, freed from the necessity to hunt, fish and farm to provide a basic, precarious level of sustenance for their families, can spend their precious time in pursuit of their own self self interests.
The grocer uses a specialized knowledge of his customers to forecast their demand, days in advance, for produce, meats, dairy products and canned goods of a certain quality and price point. If he forecasts wrong, the food rots and his customers go elsewhere. If he forecasts right, his feat of prognostication goes unnoticed.
Judging his success by his patriotism would be nonsensical – a Real American Hero's contribution to society is measured by the only metric that matters. At the end of the day, his profit is the only real measure of how well he served his customers and the only citation, ribbon, medal or reward he will receive.
Imagine a single day without our hero. Trucks loaded with food and sundries roll up to loading docks around the country, but there's no one to unload them and wheel the goods out to the shelves and carefully merchandise it for easy picking by the customer.
Would the food rot on the trucks? Would customers spontaneously unload the trucks and merchandise the items? How conscientious would they be in a task which would yield only a marginal personal benefit?
Maybe the boxes and crates would be offloaded by eager customers and just stacked on the floor. How much time would offloading and picking through stocks that weren't organized on the shelves add to a typical shopping trip? How much of your job would be undone or time with your family would you have to forgo just to put a few items of food in your cart?
But, today's problems pale in comparison with the shock to come.
The food that arrived at the loading dock today was ordered a couple of days ago. Tomorrow's deliveries were ordered yesterday. But, without our hero today, who is ordering the food for the day after tomorrow? Who can walk into the back office and immediately replace the grocer's years of experience in knowing what her customers demand? Who can absorb the content of contracts with hundreds, maybe thousands, of suppliers in time to get today's order in before close of business?
Two days after our hero disappears, the trucks stop coming and whatever stocks are left on the floor are it. If no enterprising people step forward to become the grocers and begin the arduous task of replacing that accumulated customer service experience, tens of millions of Americans, raised and conditioned to expect the lap of luxury that security of a food supply provides, will be reduced to scavenging for food within half a week.
Either outcome will have ripple effects on each and every other industry in the world and starkly reveal the importance of the grocer, the stock clerks, the cashiers and the owners and managers of every grocery store in the country.
Real American Heroes, all.