For the heart, life is simple. It beats for as long as it can. Then it stops. -- Karl Ove Knausgaard
We don't really know what air is, yet we breathe without even thinking about it, day in and day out. We don't really know how our heart works, yet our heart beats without us even thinking about it, day in and day out. We don't really know where heroes come from, yet they're out there in the world without us even thinking about them, day in and day out, day in and day out.
Go back to last weekend. I stepped outside my front door to check my mail. I see my neighbor has a sign posted in his yard, so I walk over for a closer look. "The Lord is my Shepherd," it states. I notice his neighbor has a similar small sign, but his reads "Don't Tread on Me" against a yellow background. I wonder if they reflect not so much a belief but function as a talisman of sorts, a Zulfiqar sword to smite the evil covid-19. Couldn't hurt, I think. Maybe I should get one. But which? Then I wonder about the possibility of sending mixed messages of a shepherd versus a rattlesnake. I walk to the end of the drive and notice five more shepherd signs are scattered across my street. Someone's getting rich selling these, I think. What a terrible thing to think, I think.
"Hi neighbor!" comes the booming voice which snaps me out of my mid-afternoon delirium. He is younger than me by 10 years, but his physique creates an even larger gap. He seldom leaves his house without wearing a muscle shirt, but I don't fault him. I would wear one to work if I had biceps like that. We fall into an easy conversation with a six-foot respectable distance between us. I know his mother lives nearby, and I inquire about her health. "She's great," he replies, "but I haven't seen her now for over two months." I say something along the lines of "better safe than sorry." "Oh no. It's not for her, it's for me. I have a congenital heart value issue. I will need surgery sooner than later so I can't be too careful." I nod in agreement.
At that moment, a mail truck pulls up, and a woman, tanned from the sun and even younger than my neighbor, steps out toward us with a handful of letters for him. "Would you like me to just set them down here?" she asks, standing on the sidewalk about 10 feet away from us. "Oh no," cheerfully replies my neighbor, "You can hand them to me." "I always check first," she answers with a smile. "I bet you run into a little bit of everything," I wonder, eager for some social interaction if only for a minute. "Absolutely!" she says, "One lady asks me to just leave it at the edge of her drive under a rock she has placed there. Others meet me already armed with masks and cleaner." We laugh and I say, "Well, at least you're getting some sunshine and lots of exercise. I understand that's good for the virus." "It's tough for me because I'm still not a hundred percent after my surgery," she replies. Anticipating my look, she tugs her collar down a bit to reveal the tip of an angry scar. "Heart attack. I was lucky to survive, but other people have it worse right now." And with that she gives us a friendly wave and heads back to her route.
Heroes don't always announce their arrival. They don't have a sign around their neck. But some do bear the scars of battle, keep a smile on their face, and will leave your mail at the end of your driveway if you ask.
NAN Our Town on 05/28/2020