Gil Mertz | The Unsung Heroes of COVID-19

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In the spirit of unity, I chose to use the medical term for our current pandemic. If I understand this week’s flavor of political correctness, it’s still open season on President Trump but we mustn’t say anything unkind about the world’s largest violator of human rights who repeatedly lied about the origin of the coronavirus, lest we offend them. 

However, I’m encouraged to see members of both political parties working in a bipartisan way to bring relief to the American people as quickly as possible. And we all saw hell freeze over recently when Governors Newsom of California and Cuomo of New York praised the Trump administration. Even Minnesota Democrat Ilhan Omar acknowledged Trump for his “unprecedented leadership.” Wow, next you’ll be telling me that Tom Brady signed with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers!

So rather than wasting time assigning blame, which helps no one, I think we should recognize several unsung heroes who are serving the rest of us during this difficult period. Obviously our first responders from every field of health care deserve tremendous credit, but I’d like to recognize some groups that we may be taking for granted. Here’s a small sample, but there’s more.

CHECKING CLERKS AT GROCERY STORES. While the rest of us maintain our distance in the long lines at the grocery stores, these men and women are in direct contact with hundreds of people every day. They pick up every item we’ve handled, take our money directly, and stand face to face with each of us as we check out. And for many, the only comments they get are complaints from people who can’t find something. Next time you check out at a grocery store, glance down at the name badge as you offer a sincere THANK YOU.

MAIL DELIVERERS. The U.S. Postal Service creed states, “Neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night stays these couriers from the swift completion of their appointed rounds.” Thankfully, we can add the coronavirus to that list. Yes, we need to thank the entire post office, but I’m especially grateful for those men and women who come to each house and business to hand deliver our mail. At the same time, they are opening our mailboxes, collecting letters we licked on, and putting them into their truck. And they do this nearly every day, all day long. At Christmas time we leave a gift card or treat for our mail carrier. Maybe it’s time we do that now.

PARENTS OF ELEMENTARY KIDS. Perhaps no one’s lives have been more interrupted than parents with little ones, especially single parents who are the main providers for their families. What they’ve had to deal with is far more challenging than summer vacation. This came with little warning and they must keep their kids inside most of the time. Many have to adjust to school online, prevent bored kids from climbing the walls, and keep working at their jobs. All the while, maintaining a sense of calm for their frightened children when every day is a challenge to keep their own sanity. 

TAKE OUT MEALS AT RESTAURANTS. Sadly, most of our favorite restaurants have had to cut back to a skeleton crew and can only provide take-out meals. It’s the closest we can get to eating out these days. Let me urge you to support those restaurants that have always been there for you, your family and your friends. My wife and I ordered a meal by phone at one of our favorite haunts and they had to come out to give us our meal to go. We ate in the empty parking lot as an impromptu picnic, which was great fun. As I pulled away, the server smiled with grateful eyes and said, “Thank you for not forgetting about us.” If you’ve been staying at home trying to find a new way to serve Spam for dinner, I encourage you to get out and support our local restaurants if you can.

EVERYDAY AMERICANS. Those quiet heroes who somehow, some way, will find a way to make all this work. Volunteers, churches, schools, charities, big corporations, and the list goes on. Together, we are learning to do more with less, which may be one of the many lasting lessons from this crisis. We are also learning common courtesy by not hoarding enough toilet paper to tee-pee every house in Santa Clarita. We’ll get through this and come back better than ever because after all, we’re Americans.

Clearly, I didn’t list everyone who deserves recognition. On the comments page, please list someone YOU would like to thank during this challenging time. 

Gil Mertz is a Thousand Oaks resident.

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