I had an appointment at the VA hospital in Houston on Tuesday. Normally, the place is crowded, with a steady flow of patients and visitors moving in and out.

Not on Tuesday. Like nearly everywhere else, the clinic was shutting down part of its operations because of the coronavirus.

Nevertheless, the first person I encountered was an older woman who worked there. She’d been on-duty for several hours, and when I walked up, she was sitting on a bench trying to catch a short break. She looked tired. She had every right to point me in the right direction and stay where she was, but she chose to escort me to each station. On tired feet, she made sure I was going where I needed to go. She didn’t have to be sweet, but I could still see her eyes smiling over her mask. Instead of weary feet, she deserves an angel’s wings.

Inside the hospital, I encountered several people who went out of their way to guide me. They, too, clearly were tired, but they still insisted on providing me with personal attention. One young man was just getting off his long shift; he was on his way home to his family, and I wouldn’t have blamed him one bit if he’d ducked down a hallway to avoid me. He didn’t. Somehow still cheerful, he took the time to make sure I got where I needed to go next.

Throughout my drive to and from Houston, I noticed an increased number of 18-wheelers. On a regular day, I’d gripe about their presence, and how they “hogged” the lanes. On this day? I silently thanked them for their dedication and hard work. They’re driving all hours of the night just to ensure we’re getting our basic needs met in the grocery stores and other establishments.

Back home, I’ve kept up with fellow teachers through email and social media. Moving everything online has been a massive challenge; this quarantine business has teachers performing all manner of academic gymnastics right now, but educators are doing everything humanly possible to stay connected with students while providing instruction as best they can.

I read where some teachers are missing their students so much, they’re driving through neighborhoods just to remind their students they’re loved dearly.

I read about our health care staff throughout our state. Already embedded in a grueling profession, they’re getting stretched far past normal limits as they provide our only shield from outright catastrophe. They, too, have families and regular lives, but they’re putting everything else aside just for the rest of us — all while exposing themselves and their loved ones to the very same health issues they’re helping us avoid.

Here at our local grocery stores, employees are going into their shifts earlier than usual. I know of several young folks whose working hours have been extended considerably as they try to meet the demands of a panicked public. Those workers are dealing with the hoarders and the impatient, the rude and the demanding — as if the workers are responsible for whatever does or doesn’t arrive for stocking and selling.

I see posts and other news items chronicling superhero-like efforts from everyday citizens. Adults and children alike figuring out how to sew masks for medical professionals. Business converting their normal operations to something more beneficial, such as hand sanitizers or even ventilators. Schools ensuring students still receive meals and learning materials via drive-thru or delivery. Restaurants changing the way they do business in order to help us maintain some semblance of a normal life.

And the sharing. Man, if everyone shared toilet paper the way some parents and educators are sharing tips, we’d all come out of this feeling extra clean.

Any time there’s a crisis, we’ll see the worst humanity has to offer. The bottom feeders and other dregs who do everything inhumanly possible to make the rest of us miserable. Heck, those degenerates do the same thing every day. They probably don’t even know there’s a pandemic going on.

Thankfully, we also have groups who rise up to meet any and every challenge. What they do for the benefit of others is the only reason I don’t wish an asteroid would head this way and hit the “Re-Set” button on this whole planet.

As we sort through all this confusion and frustration, maybe we can take a few moments out of the day to express our gratitude for all who put forth extraordinary efforts on our behalf.

And maybe we can model their sacrifices, even if all we do to contribute is follow these “stay-at-home” instructions.

Most of our lives are already pretty easy (if inconvenient) right now.

A whole lot of our lack of struggle stems from the selflessness of others.

May they all get wings to replace their tired feet.

Gary Stallard is a regular contributor to the Opinion page of The Lufkin Daily News. His email address is garylstallard@yahoo.com.

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