In the face of fear
Theresa Tulsiak | Monday, April 6, 2020
“Courage is not the absence of fear, but the ability to act in spite of it.” –Franklin D. Roosevelt
I think a lot about the firefighters that stood in front of the Twin Towers, looked up and ran straight into the building with the knowledge that this may be the last time they ever put out a fire. I think a lot about the police officers that suit up in kevlar, leaving their neck and head exposed for a stray bullet. I think a lot about the soldiers who train around the clock for the day they may have to be on the frontlines. I think a lot about them and I am at a loss for words to describe everything they sacrifice for the good of others and for the good of the people they serve.
As a result of this quarantine, I have finally come to see the sacrifice within my own home. This morning, I sat in solidarity with my father at the threshold of the newly-segregated part of our home and listened to Father Jenkins’ homily on the importance of hope. Watching my dad silently pack his personal protective equipment for work, the true meaning of sacrifice dawned on me. I realized I am no longer in his innermost circle; he is alone in it.
Growing up, I never fully understood the influence doctors had on the world. I recognized the hard work and years of medical school my dad put himself through to get where he is today, but never did I stop and look at how critical his schooling was to other people’s lives, and how it allows him to do what he does so effectively: saving thousands of lives day in and day out. After seeing this most recent article, the gravity of the sacrifice healthcare workers make reached its full form. When we take a step back and look at the network of workers within a hospital, within a city, within a state and within our country as a whole, that impact keeps growing. Healthcare workers have responded to the call of duty like soldiers going into combat, accepting this is what they signed up for.
Selfishly, I have been caught up in what I have sacrificed as a result of this pandemic: losing the second half of my spring semester, being thousands of miles away from some of the most important people in my life, being forced to stay inside my house. Until recently, I never stopped to think about how trivial these worries of mine were, the insular perspective I held. Here I was, worrying about what I was missing out on by staying home. And there was my dad, worrying about bringing home what he has worked so diligently to keep out, downplaying the danger he was putting himself in as to not push his own anxiety onto us.
Being 65 years old and knowing the only thing that separates him from a virus that could potentially overwhelm his immune system is a mask, I see the unspoken anxiety that resides deep within him. Yet I also know the second he enters that room, all of the anxiety will fall away and he will still be hyper-focused, confident that his training and experience from the past 35 years has equipped him for this very moment.
I didn’t want this to be yet another column offering a supposedly different perspective on COVID-19. But in times like these, I think it is important to stop amidst the chaos, break out of the self-centered view we probably hold of our own individual situations and challenge ourselves to fully see those who protect our society: seen and unseen. Our very survival hinges on their willingness to put themselves at the line of defense. Not just healthcare workers, but government officials, service workers, first responders — all of whom are stepping forward and responding to the call of duty willingly and with hearts filled with hope.
In the shadow of death, hope remains; in the face of fear, love prevails.
I think it’s time we all remember this.
The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.