Henry David Thoreau felt that “most men lead lives of quiet desperation.” I prefer to take a different view. I believe most men and women lead lives of quiet heroism. I am seeing it every day, and it shows the character of the people we encounter in our work and in our communities.
There is an overwhelming commitment for people to just do their part, and this commitment leads them to do more in unprecedented circumstances. Certainly and justifiably, we applaud those in healthcare and our first responders. They are seeing the tragic and heartbreaking impact of this pandemic each day. Like those on the frontline of a war – which this is- what they are witnessing and experiencing may even lead to the PTSD suffered by soldiers returned from the battlefield. We hear the stories of many people on their deathbed without the opportunity to see, touch and be with their most loved ones. It must be so hard on the healthcare workers and families.
Beyond the first responders and the healthcare workers, there are the rest of us. At the very least, there are people who are doing their part by staying at home and learning how to accomplish their jobs in a new work environment. They still have all the things that have always given them purpose in their work. Others may have an entirely new challenge, as both work and families must now exist in the same space.
There are others who are far less fortunate. They have suffered a loss of income and security. They may have more doubts about the future than they’ve ever experienced before. We are all impacted by this new reality that COVID-19 has brought to our doorsteps.
The future. What will it be like?
Change is hard enough as it is. Change that is driven by random circumstances that cannot be rationalized is an even greater challenge. What is most difficult is a change that is brought about randomly without the security of a clear path forward. How do we deal with that? For some, especially for those quiet heroes, it means going about everyday tasks despite it all, despite what it means.
One of the essential industries where people continue to go to work every day is construction. Concurrently, the stimulus package allows some workers to stay home and collect as much in (or more) than they would make if they were working. Many chose to remain on the job. Others have chosen to stay at home instead of risking greater exposure because of family, personal health, or household members who have compromised immune systems, etc.
This situation is certainly not the equivalent of an NYFD firefighter running up the stairs of the World Trade Center, knowing he won’t likely come down alive. Still, for those of us who are not first responders, it has some similarities.
We, the Construction Industry, have a duty to build infrastructure and be a critical part of the economy. Some answer the call to that duty with dedication and focus on what the job requires, accepting the risks of that job.
I have a nephew in Chicago who delivers pipe to construction projects. He has never been busier. There is work going on everywhere in Chicago and northwest Indiana. At home, he has a wife who is an elementary school teacher and an 18-month-old daughter. He wipes down his truck every day, after every stop, and continually uses hand sanitizer. He does this countless times a day and is very careful when he comes home at the end of each day, taking precautions to minimize the possibility he would bring the virus into the home.
His brother is an RN who had a “Hero Lives Here” sign planted in his yard by neighbors, which he humbly dismisses as he feels he is just someone doing the job he loves. His wife and three sons are staying with her parents to ensure proper quarantining. Although they are only a short distance away, he cannot hug his boys each night.
I maintain that both are heroes in unassuming ways. Both go about their work, accepting the risks, taking the necessary precautions, and making sacrifices to do their part.
People are quietly and humbly going about their work in the face of a global pandemic, pulling their weight and making their contributions. In Kalamazoo, family members of our project teams there volunteered to sew face masks for all our workers to offer some level of protection as they continue in their jobs. Stories like this are being witnessed all over the country. We are proud to be home to some of those stories.
And, we are proud of all those teammates in the field each day who understand that in the end, you cannot build from an office. Construction is a risky profession, but it is a noble profession that perseveres in the face of risk and accomplishes great things. Whether witnessed and recorded or not, work gets done simply because it is needed. It is your profession and vocation.
Thank you to all the workers, the suppliers, and the families – their families – out there. History won’t record your courage and fortitude as you continue to work during this pandemic. We take pride in the noble work you are doing. We hope you will take comfort in knowing it is noticed and appreciated. We thank you.
One man with courage is a majority.
To have courage for whatever comes in life – everything lies in that.
Saint Teresa of Avila
I feel quite fearless protecting the people I love.