It was less than three months ago when the World Health Organization announced the first case outside of China of a new virus that had originated in Wuhan. A woman traveled from that city to Thailand, and a worldwide pandemic officially got underway.
In that 87 days, we have gained a new perspective on the world and its fragility. We have learned that all the warnings about the threat of a global pandemic were not overblown or exaggerated. We have discovered just how unprepared we were, as a nation, as a planet.
Sad to say, we probably are still closer to the start of this crisis than the end. Progress will be incremental until a vaccine is developed. The widespread deployment of social distancing may blunt the curve enough for summer to bring some semblance of normalcy, but it’s unlikely to bring the end.
There will be time later to hand out accolades and to honor the heroes, but there’s no harm in pausing right now, in the midst of it all, to recognize three distinct groups that deserve special recognition for how they have responded to a catastrophe and given us all hope.
First on the list — there is no close contender in second place — is the medical community: doctors, nurses, administrators, lab technicians, everyone toiling with great resolve to beat back this viral threat. Let’s not forget the hospital cleaning crews, who play an essential role in stopping this disease, and are among those at risk.
There is courage involved in treating a virulent disease, a step beyond the high level of commitment already demonstrated by medical professionals. The same goes for EMTs and other emergency personnel who rush to help the most ill. Quite simply, without them, all of these men and women, and the job they are willing to do, we would have no hope. With them, we have much more than hope — we have a certainty that this dark period has an end point.
We often grouse about medical bills, the American health care system in general, its costs, its infuriating bureaucracies. All of it can overshadow the amazing people who actually care for people, who heal and cure. This outbreak, as terrible its cost, has reminded us of the debt we owe them, now more than ever.
And then there are the schools. It’s tempting to quip that parents suddenly have a new appreciation for teachers only because they find themselves having to fill that role in the daily lives of their own children. But it goes beyond that: So many educators have shown their generous spirit during the lockdown, offering lessons in creative ways, and working to maintain some bit of consistency for the young people in their charge.
In several districts, teachers took time to reach out physically, from a safe distance — driving around their neighborhoods, reminding kids that they’re missed, and that the teachers remain in their lives, despite the space separating them.
With almost no preparation, and little precedent, the region’s schools have provided everything from emotional support to meals to lessons, reminding children just how essential education is in their lives. Educators deserve a special tip of the hat at such a challenging time.
Finally, take a moment to appreciate not just the generous people who have donated so much money and so many items to those in need, but also the men and women whose jobs are to manage the local food pantries.
At a “normal” time, the food banks seem to exist only as a safety net. But as this time shows, more and more people have learned just how close they are to needing that help to simply put food on the table. It’s a matter of degree, but everyone is always just a disaster away from being the person who needs help.
Food pantries don’t judge, they simply help. They feed. At a time when so many people are struggling, the system has not been overwhelmed — that’s largely due to the largess of this generous community. But the infrastructure exists, too, because of the time and effort of men and women who keep the food pantries operating.
Surely, there are so many others deserving of praise at a time of such distress. But take a moment to recognize these three groups, and to thank them for their service. They are on the front lines of a crisis, fighting for us all.
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One fine body…