Amid crisis, everyday heroes are all around us
There is no doubt that we’re living through trying times. The world hasn’t seen a pandemic like this in more than 100 years. Living through history isn’t the same as reading about it — we don’t know for sure what’s coming next, or when things will go back to normal. That reality can weigh down our spirits. What I can tell you, however, is that in times like this, there are everyday heroes all around us. You need only look around or thumb through the pages of the paper to find them.
While so many of us are sheltering at home to help “flatten the curve,” many of our friends and neighbors are still going to work every day. They’re doing their jobs to keep us safe and healthy, and make sure we can still have what we need to get by. From health care workers and first responders, to grocery store workers, truck drivers and janitorial staff, they’re putting in hours so we can keep living our lives.
Teachers have had to pivot to distance learning. For rural communities like ours, where a reliable internet connection is hardly a guarantee, that’s even more difficult. At the same time, parents are trying to help their kids learn from home, many of them while juggling their own full-time job. And kids are struggling, too. They can’t see their friends, they don’t have the structure of the school day, and teens are being asked to forgo rites of passage like prom and graduation. There’s no overstating how hard that is for everyone. That’s a lot of change to deal with in a short amount of time, and I applaud all of you.
At the same time, municipal leaders are figuring out how to meet remotely while still doing their duty to the public. Faith leaders are finding ways to stay connected with their congregations, offering much-needed prayers and hope. County businesses are doing their part to help our communities. Pineland Farms in Mars Hill has donated 5,000 boxes of food to anyone who needs them, giving them out in St. Agatha, Fort Kent, Houlton, Presque Isle and Caribou. NorState Federal Credit Union bought pizzas to give thank-you lunches to grocery store workers in Madawaska, Fort Kent, Eagle Lake, Van Buren, Ashland and Presque Isle.
Everyday Mainers are stepping up, too: Volunteers in the Island Falls Area Face Mask Project have sewed and donated more than 1,000 cloth face masks. Volunteers with the Boys and Girls Club are joining with other local groups to prepare and deliver free meals to people in need. Prof. Chunzeng Wang at UMPI has been gathering and sharing data from Maine and Canada to help people stay informed. The Aroostook County Emergency Management Agency praised Prof. Wang’s charts as being “one of the most useful tools available to us.”
It can be hard to see that by staying home, we’re saving lives. But that’s the heart of this matter. By staying home as much as possible, for now, we’re doing real work to slow the spread of the coronavirus. That means our hospitals and the dedicated staff who work there won’t be overwhelmed by COVID-19 patients, which means they’ll be able to effectively treat the patients they do see. So I’m going to say it again: By staying home, we’re saving lives. In my book, that makes all of you heroes.
I know that this pandemic is hitting us all hard. If you need help finding resources or navigating state systems, I want you to call me. I’m here to help you, to listen, and to help you find what you and your family need to get by. You can reach me by email at Mike.Carpenter@legislature.maine.gov or on the phone at 207-287-1515. I went into public service so I could stand up for and help the people of Aroostook County — that hasn’t changed.
I don’t know when this will all end, but I do know beyond any doubt that we’ll get through this together.
Sen. Mike Carpenter, D-Houlton, is serving in his sixth term in the Maine Senate, representing Senate District 2, which consists of central and southern Aroostook County and part of Penobscot County.