When I was a kid, my heroes were Roy Rogers, Dale Evans, Gene Autry, Superman, Mighty Mouse. They were the good guys in movies, cartoons, comic books.
My heroes were outstanding in some way: they were smart, two flew, all lived according to the law, they helped other people. In fact, they helped at the risk of getting hurt themselves.
Being young and human, I couldn’t do what Dale Evans or Superman did. However, I knew right from wrong and could identify injustices. Did I take them on? No, but my respect level for those connected with any injustice was lowered. This happened unconsciously, but it happened.
Heroes. Why is it important to have heroes?
They represent the best we can be. As an adult, I remember reading far and wide about Eleanor Roosevelt. I found myself admiring her. She was an example of a woman who faced challenges. She made a positive difference in a difficult world. Then there were Mother Teresa and Corrie ten Boom. I also was inspired by these women.
In my late thirties, I’d returned to college for a degree in counseling. There, I actively looked for women heroes. I did not find one hero.
While seeking the extraordinary, I had access—day or night—to a few friends. They were exceptional women. Strong and vulnerable. I was aware of how they coped with challenges in the home and at work. They’d survived some major obstacles, and they’d come out stronger and wiser than ever. I now realize those women were my heroes. No capes, but consistently amazing.
If there’s ever been a time this world could use some heroes, it’s now.
The world is struggling in many areas, on so many levels. The timing is interesting for the world-wide Covid-19 pandemic, an unprecedented challenge.
We could use a few heroes, right?
Since I was a kid, I’ve realigned my thinking. Essential workers from all walks of life are moving quickly to help others. They work at the grocery stores, fire stations, hospitals, nursing homes. Actually, they are everywhere.
My oncologist wanted a blood sample, so that meant another trip to town.
I noticed the dogwoods blazing as I drove. A beautiful day. I found a parking space and felt lucky. Within seconds, a hospital shuttle-buggy pulled up, and a volunteer said he’d be happy to drive me to the door. I masked-up.
Moments later, I stepped inside our regional hospital. Then reality hit me. A woman held one arm out like a fullback, and I waited my turn for her to swipe my forehead with a thermometer. (So quick and different from the days of the glass thermometer under the tongue and hold, hold, hold….) The volunteer asked why I was there.
I could hardly think. I had just walked onto the battlefield among soldiers doing their jobs.
After reading the tightened rules displayed, I reached for the sanitizer and thanked the woman for directions. The volunteers are on the front line, alongside the doctors and nurses.
I usually have no interest in learning names, faces, rules, rhythms. But now, I’m more curious about everything, everyone.
Heroes. I guess I’d ignored the man working up high on a ladder, the person behind the desk asking for my information, the housekeepers. They are all on the front line.
In the waiting area, I signed in, then I placed my used pen in a separate container. I turned and found signs on chairs saying, “Skip This Chair.” I skipped several chairs before sitting.
The hospital seemed to throb with people.
After my paperwork, after getting a bracelet with my name and birthdate, I headed for the restroom. I needed to know something was the same as last year! On my way there, I heard a nurse and technician speak in dim voices about Dr. So-and-so’s orders.
Glancing to my left, in front of elevators, four people were leaning like tepee poles, heads together.
I was in another world, the hospital world.
One thing at a time became my slogan of the hour. When I reached the lab, precautions and instructions were displayed on the door and inside the door. Glass between patients and nurses had a purpose.
A masked nurse soon held the door open and called my name. It was needle time. Now I may balk at needles, but I know it is a good and gracious thing in the long run. The first nurse stuck me with no luck. Another hit the vein on her first try and said, “You’re good to go.”
When I stepped into the hallway, there was a dietary worker pulling a cart behind her like a toy. Another hero doing the grunt work that has to be done. I wonder if anyone tells her, “We appreciate what you do.”
As I walked away from the hospital, I encountered a huge sign on the lawn, directly in front of the main entrance. “HEROES WORK HERE.” It touched me.
To local heroes and heroes everywhere, I say, “Thank you for the work you do.”
Baxter Regional Medical Center, Mountain Home, Arkansas.
Photographed by Pat Durmon, September 2020.