Canada is slowly reopening with new safety protocols in place, and communities are adapting to the new normal. But for those working on the frontlines, things will continue to be different for quite some time.
In Mississauga, Ontario, grocery and home goods store manager Aaron Murray has faced challenges over the past few months, from staff shortages to customer frustration amid the pandemic. Throughout it all, he maintains a positive attitude and never complains, inspiring his employees — and his family — through this time of uncertainty.
This, coupled with his work ethic, is a reason why his former partner, Carmen Murray, nominated him as an everyday hero. “Aaron doesn’t see himself as being a hero in any of this,” Carmen tells Daily Hive.
She describes Aaron as a regular guy and an incredibly hard worker who loves his daughter and will do whatever it takes to ensure she has what she needs. “I think this is why he’s been working non-stop,” Carmen says.
By working with the public in a busy store, Aaron is at risk of exposure to the coronavirus every day. “He’s been working very hard because he’s very short-staffed. The social distancing rules are mandatory, so he’s got to keep his eye on that,” Carmen explains.
However, she says many customers are still not taking the measures seriously at the store, nor does everyone follow public healthcare directions around spacing and masks. Oftentimes, they get angry at the staff. “I think everybody is just on edge and frustrated,” says Carmen.
The two have a 15-year-old daughter whom Carmen says is missing her friends, and missing going to Blue Jays games with her dad (a huge fan of the team). She also knows what’s going on in the world, and if her mom doesn’t tell her, she’ll Google it.
Since the pandemic began, Carmen says Aaron’s fear of interacting with his daughter has been very real, which is why he is incredibly careful. “My daughter being afraid, knowing that dad is at work, she needs a lot of reassurance from him,” she says.
A typical day for Aaron at work is hectic — something to which many working on the frontlines can relate.
“He’s non-stop, go go go, and oftentimes, doesn’t take his breaks,” Carmen explains. “The staff need more breaks, so he’s got to compensate for staff. He puts every staff member before his needs.”
Aaron usually takes a week’s vacation in May, around the time of his dad’s birthday, but this year he didn’t do that. When he has a day off, he spends a lot of time on the phone and conference calls. In the beginning, this was more frequent as his team was trying to get everything settled.
Despite this, the store manager and father is working through it. “If there was anything that was concerning, he wouldn’t tell me, so he’s just powering through,” says Carmen.
Carmen says Aaron is incredibly witty, and he makes their daughter laugh a lot. The family recently had a social distancing get-together where two special visitors were able to stop by to see them. “There were a lot of tears because we haven’t seen the grandparents since the end of February when we started noticing things,” she says.
Everyone is experiencing the impacts of the pandemic in some way, and Carmen urges Canadians to be mindful when they visit local businesses.
“Every time you go into a store, or a bank, or anywhere where you’re dealing with people who are on the frontlines, just be kind,” she says. “I know everyone’s frustrated and scared, but we’re all in the same boat.”