Minnesota Prairie Roots

Writing and photography by Audrey Kletscher Helbling

Thankful Tuesday: Here’s to you, blue collar workers April 7, 2020

Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo October 2015, northbound on Interstate 35 with the Minneapolis skyline in the distance. We depend on mechanics and automotive machinists to keep our vehicles running.


MONDAY MORNING I PULLED a whiteboard from the closet. And then I started a list. Of everyone and everything I need to pray for daily. The list numbers nine categories already and I expect will continue to grow. Typically I wouldn’t need a written list as I have a good memory. But I find myself needing a recall prompt. And, in some sense, physically grabbing a black marker and writing on a whiteboard helps me.

Last evening I added three more names to the prayers for friends and family category after a sister-in-law asked me to pray for a friend’s son, who is infected with COVID-19, and his young family.

On that prayer list I’ve written thankfulness as a reminder to thank God for the many people—especially in healthcare, emergency response, law enforcement and military—who are on “the frontline” serving others.


Randy at work in the automotive machine shop. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo.


Today, though, I want to focus on thanking essential blue collar workers, those men and women who don’t have the option of working from home. That includes my husband, Randy, an automotive machinist. His employer has taken steps to protect customers and employees. Customers (mostly) are no longer allowed inside the store or inside the shop with doors to both locked. Rather, they must stay outside, call and then await curbside service.


The door to the automotive machine shop is now locked and signs posted on social distancing, business hours and new customer services practices.


But for Randy, it’s not that easy. He sometimes needs to help customers carry heavy auto parts into the shop so he can perform tasks like turn brake rotors, resurface heads and much more. That means close contact then and as they discuss the needed repair work. I don’t like it. But he reports customers are getting better at social distancing. Still…

Randy is not alone. All across Minnesota and across this nation, automotive machinists and mechanics are working hard to keep vehicles—from tractors to cars to trucks, including semis—running. There’s concern in those garages and shops where employees must drive customers’ vehicles into bays. Imagine stepping into a semi cab driven by an over-the-road trucker who’s traveled who knows where. There’s real fear, with extra precautions needed to clean those cabs and protect the mechanics repairing them. Yesterday I talked to someone with a family semi truck repair business. She’s worried about exposure to COVID-19 and understandably so.

Yet, these hardworking men and women—just like those in grocery stores—continue to work. (And, yes, I’m grateful Randy still has a job.) They work to deliver products, goods and services to us. Thank you, truckers and delivery drivers. Thank you, grocery store employees. Thank you, mechanics, automotive machinists and those working the counters in parts stores. Thank you, all blue collar workers. We need you, and that is evident now, more than ever.

© Copyright 2020 Audrey Kletscher Helbling


17 Responses to “Thankful Tuesday: Here’s to you, blue collar workers”

  1. With the attitude on wearing masks in public, I don’t think it would be out of line to ask customers to wear one if they have it. It would help. You and Randy stay safe Audrey. ❤

    • I know Randy wouldn’t ask customers to do that and his employer likely would not go for that. It’s taken awhile for customers to adjust to the fact that they can’t just walk into the store or shop.

      You stay safe, too, Penny.

  2. Gunny Says:

    I have a device called Hum (Verizon) which works as a hands-free phone device, it also keeps track of both my vehicles AND lets me know the vehicle’s “health”. One day, the car was sitting on the other side of the wall I usually work at (on the other side of the wall) an I was sent a message that my card was dying. Low battery. Jumped the car, drove it to the service shop, wrote out the car’s problems and left the keys (put all this into an envelope). 2 days later they stated car was repaired (after a couple of calls: this is broke and is going to cost $XXX to fix – approved), After getting them the credit card umber and getting the OK, I had them set the car outside with keys in a specific location so I could find them. I went back with mask, gloves and Lysol spray and wipes. Keep in mind, the car had been sanitized prior to bringing it up to the shop. So, we can find work-arounds folks.

    • Gunny, thank you for being so considerate of your mechanic. The business I mentioned that repairs semis did the same Lysol wiping down. But Lysol is not the easiest product to find around here. I’ve been looking for Lysol wipes for weeks to no avail.

  3. Sandra Van Erp Says:

    My dealership early on posted that waiting in their reception was no longer an option, even for an oil change. This won’t affect me as I had to change cars last year, am on the intro period mileage, especially since now we’re getting 3 mos/gal. of gas. I suppose a person could bring a lawn chair, sit in the parking lot. In Randy’s work, all should definitely, at minimum, wear masks. You make excellent points about the incoming work. The semi’s are the first ones that came to my mind. Trucks don’t roll, forget TP. What’s NAPA saying? Anything? Most employers are making an effort to say and implement something. You’re in my prayers!

    • Sandra, no masks for NAPA employees, although Randy wears one when he does dust/grime intensive work that requires protection. Wearing a mask all the time simply is not practical for him. One can only hope customers are concerned about others. Like my husband and his co-workers.

  4. ~Such a difficult time right now, Audrey. I am wondering what GOD is teaching us. I’m already seeing many servants, such as “yourself,” giving back during this dark time. HURRY and Take this devil virus away, Jesus! Much Love and Virtual hugs from Duluth. xx

  5. jhc1218 Says:

    Yes, thank you to all those mentioned. I especially want to thank the people keeping our utilities going – waste water treatment plants, energy company workers, refinery workers, power line operators, etc…Things surely would be different if we didn’t have hot running water, flush toilets, electricity, gas and internet to the house.

  6. Audrey- Thanks for the prayers and for the focus on Blue Collar workers who don’t have the liberty or financial freedom to stop working in these difficult times. The airline mechanics are also part of those people working extremely hard to get and keep planes in the air. If it wasn’t for the hard working SunCountry aircraft mechanics my Hubby would have had to fly to the states like he does every April to pick up the two Transavia airplanes that are leased to SunCountry each winter (so Minnesotans can escape the cold for FL). The two planes are now back on Dutch soil! But, all the mechanics in his company (including project management mechanics Hubby) are still working in the hangers maintaining 32 aircraft that are now grounded! While pilots, flight crews, management are all at home and social distancing these unsung hero’s are working in conditions that are difficult to social distance! Maintaining the valuable resources if the company in hope that they will be able to return to normal operations at some point in the future. This has had a devastating effect on the airline industry and we hope and pray that his company will survive this economic downturn. I hope your whiteboard is large enough for all the needed prayers in the coming months.
    Thanks from someone who is not well connected on the prayer level. I try anyway.

    • Paula, thank you for the insights shared here about the aircraft mechanics. I, too, hope our businesses can survive. Thank you to your hubby for all of his hard work. I’m thankful those Dutch planes are finally back on Dutch soil.

      I don’t think any whiteboard is big enough right now for all the prayers needed. But it works for me. Thank you for praying however often you do. God hears us all, whenever we pray. Stay well, my “Minnesota” friend.

  7. Missy’s Crafty Mess/Missy’s Handarbeid Says:

    Thankfulness for all of those who are serving others in one way or another! Proves how useless these overpaid celebrities and athletes are.

    • I agree. We, as a society, need to hold a deeper appreciation for the everyday hard-working man and woman. And pay them like we value them.

      I do appreciate the celebrities and athletes who are giving to others now, as long as their motivation is not to call attention to themselves.

  8. So thankful for all those who are still working their very essentiol jobs (like Randy). I’m glad his employer is taking steps to keep things safer. These are crazy times! I worry even for Gavin who delivers sandwiches to peoples homes. I think most are so thankful to still have a job despite the risks. I hope this virus leaves soon!!!

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