The doctors, nurses, police, firemen, and EMTs who have been applauded as the frontline heroes of the corona virus pandemic richly deserve our respect and gratitude. Right behind them in the shadows, however, is a large contingent of hardworking heroes who are keeping Americans fed, picking up their trash, providing them life-saving medicine, delivering their groceries and packages, preparing their food, cleaning their hospitals, caring for those who are most vulnerable, and keeping us safe—often while earning low wages and few benefits. These are the humble people whose heroic service to society is notoriously overlooked.
Who are they? Why do they do what they do? What are they thinking? Molly Kinder at the Brookings Institute set out to find the answer to these questions. She interviewed many of these “heroes in the shadows” and here is what three of them had to say.
Yvette Beatty - Home health aide - Age 60
“I am feeling scared. Saying goodbye to my family, I don’t know if it is going to be the last goodbye.
“I hope and pray to God I would never get it. I don’t think I would even go home. I would tell my kids: Give me a tent, feed me from the outside.”
David Saucedo - Nursing home cook - Age 52
“I deal with patients who are not capable of taking care of themselves, that have dementia. I accepted that head-on because I have two handicapped brothers. My heart always goes to people who cannot help themselves. I really care for all my patients…Whatever infections they have, it all is going to end up in the kitchen. The Alzheimer’s patients don’t know about ‘six feet, keep your distance.’ They just come up to you, grab you, and sit and talk to you. I need to protect them as much as I need to protect myself. The last thing I want to do is get one of my patients sick or one of my loved ones sick.”
Sabina Hopps - Acute Care facility housekeeping aide - Age 46
“I clean patient rooms in the ICU department. Those are the sickest people. It scares me because I can be cleaning a patient’s room and the patient can have the coronavirus and I would never know. I have asthma, and my son has asthma. My son is a cancer survivor. I am petrified to not know what is going on or what the patients have…If I didn’t love what I do, I could have walked away and sat at home, like half the world, and got unemployment. But that’s not me. The patients deserve better. It is me and the other housekeepers who sit and talk with the patients to brighten up their day, because they don’t have family members visiting now. As long as God put me on this earth, I am going to continue to go to work.”
If You Could Read Their Minds
We don’t have to read their minds. We just have to notice them and listen to what they have to say. Like Sabina said, they could stay home and collect unemployment and probably get more money. But when you listen to them, you hear them speaking from their heart and not from their mind. Heroes always listen to their heart.