We are still in the middle of it.
We don’t know how to feel. Grocery stores are a wreck. You can’t find hand sanitizer. You can’t find toilet paper. You’re not allowed to take more than two loaves of bread. We can’t go out to eat. Playgrounds are closed and some parks too. We look suspiciously at anyone who coughs and we wonder if that little headache is due to lack of caffeine or…is it something else?
There’s not a soul on this planet who isn’t aware of the coronavirus pandemic. It has impacted everything from the stock market to the way we greet one another. From the brands we choose at the grocery store to our ability to earn a living. There’s no end in sight, the tension is becoming part of our lives and even the most mundane things can be potentially life threatening. Yet if we look up for just a moment from reading the latest news on our phones we’ll see that heroes are starting to emerge.
There’s another group of heroes
who put their health and very lives
on the line every day for you.
It’s easy to see the ones who wear a uniform. My son works for Homeland Security on a joint criminal apprehension task force in Memphis, Tennessee. He gets up every morning, puts on his crisp, spotless uniform and heads to an environment where apprehending criminals guarantees that he won’t be able to keep his shirt crisp and spotless and where he can forget accomplishing “social distancing.” He’s not allowed to wear a mask (that’s what bad guys do). When his wife is at her most vulnerable, and his kids aren’t helping with her stress level, this hero, like every other member of law-enforcement, saddles up and makes certain that we are protected—at least from things other than the virus.
We have a friend who is an ER nurse. She gets up every morning, puts on her uniform, completely committed to breathing air expelled by people who have tested positive. It’s hard to maintain that recommended six feet distance when you’re petting the feverish forehead of a terrified twelve year old who’s having trouble breathing. She wears a cloth mask that may be marginally effective at keeping her from spreading germs to the twelve year old, but does little to keep the virus from reaching her as he has a wracking coughing fit. Our friend smiles. She listens. She comforts. She courts risk and worse every day she reports to work, in service of strangers.
Another friend is a fireman. After serving this country in the Marine Corps—ooh-rah—this young man enlisted in continued service in a little town in Mississippi. When he’s working, you can tell. He’s they guy with soot on his face, wearing the funny hard hat and flame retardant clothes. While he’s probably not welcome at a formal gatherings dressed like that—sans emergency—most people equate his uniform with hero status. He runs into burning buildings as others run out. He’s the guy you want on your camping trip because he’s a trained EMT. His job hasn’t slowed down any since “The Vid.” He’s making more calls than ever and routinely standing at inappropriate social distancing. It’s hard to follow those rules when you’re giving mouth-to-mouth or inserting a tube down someone’s throat. This dude is clearly a hero.
We all salute these heroes. And it’s easy to recognize how critical First Responders (including EMS and Fire Services), Law Enforcement and hospital staff, nurses and doctors are. If we think for just a moment, we can pretty quickly appreciate the importance of Nursing Home and Long Term Care Facilities staff, Assisted Living and Specialty Care Assisted Living Facilities staff, End-Stage Renal Disease Treatment Clinic staff and Pharmacists.
There’s another group of heroes who put their health and very lives on the line every day for you. These people are often almost invisible unless they are operating in their work environment. They don’t wear a uniform that looks as good as my son’s. They don’t have career advancement opportunities like my friend, the nurse. They don’t make the money or have the prestige of my doctor friends. Yet, your company, your supervisor’s ability to work, your janitor’s ability to keep your workplace floor clean and your peace of mind is helped when these people are serving and dramatically hindered when they are not.
As they quietly and without fanfare serve society today, these people are having a direct impact on your government. On big business. On medical research. On your community. On your finances. You name it and they affect it today, twenty years from now and beyond that. The actions of these unsung heroes determine the very fabric of society, tomorrow.
Can’t you just hear the drum roll? Do you know who I mean, yet?
These unsung heroes are the teachers who serve in your preschool. She’s that woman that you may barely notice and, sadly, barely speak to as you fly in and fly out to pick up your two-year-old. Her hair is a little messy after being at work all day. She’s not dressed particularly fancy. When you walk in the door, she’s wearing gloves and standing far closer to that awful smell coming from little Johnny on the changing table than you’d ever want to stand. There’s a little vomit on her shoulder, her make-up isn’t fresh and she looks a bit tired. Of course, she is. You know how hard it is to take care of your child properly, when the ratio of caregiver to child is 1 to 1 or 1 to 3. She’s been doing a spectacular job of exactly that since 6AM…except that she’s been doing it with seven unique, individual little humans.
Even when we aren’t being devastated by pandemics, the value that these unsung heroes provide society is far greater than they get credit for. The latest brain development science suggests that the vast majority of a child’s learning capacity is established by actions, events and routines prior to the age of six. Given that the average child spends ten hours a day in child care and needs twelve or more hours of sleep each night, your child is spending the majority of her waking hours with her teacher. If you allow this teacher to care for your child 60% of her waking hours, it better be that you trust the teacher to be “doing it right.” And if that’s the case, true hero status is a given.
When they work in this industry, the twenty year-old who came to work in child care by way of Burger King, the degreed professional educator and the forty-five year old domestic engineer whose primary function is to serve in her home have all been infected with something for which there is no cure. They have a disease that is permanent. When it invades, it never leaves and it often over-shadows and consumes much of the individual’s life.
What is it? These unsung heroes are wired to love and serve your children and your family, and they do it day in and day out, without the title of “essential services.”
So, as we work our way through this craziness, and try to figure out the “new normal,” remember these unsung heroes. She may be out of a job temporarily, but she is still thinking about your child. She is still planning unique experiences to enhance your child’s growth and development. When she returns to work, it will be before this crisis is over. She will place herself at risk, to serve you and your family.
If that’s not the definition of a hero then I don’t know what is.