Norma and I met four and a half years ago when our radiation appointments overlapped. I remember sitting opposite her in the waiting room and being drawn by her warmth and her smile. One can find friendship in the most surprising and unexpected places. I, too, am grateful.
I am grateful
by Norma L. Hernandez, College Place, Washington
I am grateful, I really am. I am an “essential worker”—times two. I work in the banking industry (imagine if your bank completely closed—gasp!). I am also the mayor of my town. I bet neither of those roles came to mind when you read “essential worker.” There has been no “Stay Home, Stay Safe” for me, in fact, it has been quite the opposite.
I had been mayor for only seven months when COVID-19 changed the way we all live. As mayor, it fell upon me to decide what steps and precautionary measures are needed, even prior to the state mandates. They started off small, closing down public playgrounds and bathrooms and putting up informational advisory signs. To protect my staff, I closed City Hall to the public, asking citizens to utilize email, phones, and online services to conduct business with us.
I got a bit of flack for that—a few mothers upset that their children are upset not to be able to play on “their favorite toys,” and a few senior citizens that preferred to do all their business in person—after all, they have very few reasons to get out these days. However, overall feedback was positive and appreciated.
Then the state Stay Home, Stay Safe mandates came out. Suddenly people either love my leadership or hate it, there was no in between. Parents and students are now home, natural hair color is starting to show, and fingernails are embarrassing. Without going into too many details of what decisions I have had to make, I believe I know how the Grinch felt when the citizens of Whoville whispered under their breath as he passed by.
Americans are an interesting people. Especially those who never have been told what to do with their bodies or judged “lesser than” by the color of their skin. We hold our “inalienable rights” up as if they were given to us by God instead of man. We do not want anyone telling us to be careful, to protect our kids, or to respect others because that should be our decision and not forced upon us. There are those that say, “The law is the law and it must be obeyed,” (or you can go back to where you came from) when it comes to immigration. They shout, “Blue lives matter,” when there are protests against police brutality in communities of color.
But suddenly, the law does not matter, and the police are oppressors, now that law has come to their home. Suddenly, it is patriotic to break the law, to protest, carry weapons meant to intimidate, and to yell at the very people whose job it is to care for the sick or enforce the mandates.
I hope that, when this all shakes out, the decisions I make will be seen as smart. I pray that the entire reason I ran for mayor—to serve my community and to make it a wonderful place to call home—stands out amongst the people I pledged to serve, as brave. I do not always feel brave or smart, but what I do is always done from my heart. I am grateful, I really am.