I thanked my friend who is an emergency room doctor here in Portland, Oregon, for his dedication and hard work during the coronavirus. I asked him what it’s like being on the frontlines. His answer surprised me: “Eve, I don’t see myself as being on the frontlines any more than you or anyone else. I have a job. I go to my job each day and I try my best at it. Many people these days aren’t able to go to their jobs, they’re not getting their pay checks and are really suffering. I’m just grateful that I’m doing what I’ve been trained and want to do.”

My friend made me think about the many frontlines – and many heroes – there are these days. Not all heroes wear capes or medical garb. Many are completely unseen and their praises go unsung.

There are the mothers and fathers who are at home with all their children, some of whom struggle in the best of times.

Being a parent has never been more complicated. With all the added screen time our children are coping with and with all the negative influences that are constantly streaming right into the palm of their hands, our children are bombarded and overwhelmed. Kids thrive in structure and most structure has been thrown out the window. It feels like there is no normal in parenting anymore. 

I can only imagine that mental health issues must be at an all-time high during this time, with anxiety and depression manifesting itself in so many ways for teenagers and adults alike. When I see my own kids struggle I think of what it would have been like for me (a complete extrovert!) to be a teenager living through this time, striped of all socialization, end of year parties, graduations... For me people are like oxygen. Take away my social life and it would have been disastrous!

So our kids are also on the frontlines. They’re struggling and trying their best under these circumstances. They’re showing up where they can. We need to give them (and ourselves) a little slack and a little credit.

I think of all the single mothers and fathers out there who are doing this work all on their own, holding things together, even if sometimes only by a thread. Bringing joy to their homes even when worry and dread is what they hold in their hearts. They are all heroes. Those frontlines are not easy places to be. It can feel more like a war zone at times.

And how about all those men and women who are living with the added stresses of their income taking a massive hit due to this situation? Some have lost jobs, many feel unfulfilled and worried, having no choice but to deplete their savings with each month that passes. Financial stress can often lead to a disruption in the harmony of one’s home. The instability of the situation and the not knowing when and how it will all end brings us no peace.

And yet even though some have so little at this time, there is still so much kindness and giving happening all around. From the sharing of basic supplies (like toilet paper) and food, shopping for those more vulnerable, deliveries of homemade challahs each Friday to friends and neighbors, community initiatives collecting and dispersing funds generously to those in need even though many have little to spare. You see people shining in these moments.

And then there are our community leaders who are taking care of the welfare of their people, guiding many through an unprecedented time of isolation and loneliness, grief and loss. One elderly community member that I visited told me that I was the first person she has seen in weeks. She has been too afraid to even venture out to the grocery store and lives all alone, eating only canned food. I cried. She cried. I couldn’t even give her a hug. 

These are so many frontlines.

Then there’s the Chevre Kadisha, the Jewish burial society. From the onset of the pandemic I anxiously waited for that first phone call asking me if I can assist in this holy work. I thought that when the call came I would have to decline. I was too afraid. I didn’t know if it was safe or even the right thing to do. But when the call came my answer came quick. It was crystal clear to me that once again I was standing on the frontlines. It’s not always easy to stand there but you do what you need to do at every moment. One day at a time, one situation at a time. One frontline at a time, each an opportunity for growth. 

The details are different for everyone, but we are all made from strong stuff. Step up. Lean in. Don’t be afraid. Appreciate all the frontlines around you as you embrace your own.