Remember Our Unsung Heroes

By Mike McClary

The Arizona Republic

I met a friend for coffee just before the holidays, and over the course of conversation, he said that he thought auto mechanics were underappreciated.

“They’re highly skilled, well-trained and, basically, we put our lives in their hands,” he said.

How could I argue with that?

We moved on to other topics, but I found myself thinking about it later that day when I took my daughter to the hospital for what appeared to be an increasingly serious illness.

For the next 48 hours, we stayed at Scottsdale Healthcare Shea and I began to understand just how many professions, like a mechanic or plumber, simply fly under the radar – until we need them. They touch our lives at the most critical moments and then essentially vanish.

During our time at the hospital, one person after another swooped in to take my daughter’s temperature, make sure she had plenty of juice, or deliver another pillow or coloring book.

Each of them – Dave, Anthony, Piper, Lisa, Connie and a handful of others whose names I never knew and probably never will – took the time to ensure that my little girl had what she needed to make her stay more comfortable.

And while my daughter slept, these same people were in another room, caring for someone else’s child. If those kids are lucky, they, like us, won’t need the nurses and technicians again anytime soon. But, boy, will we be thankful they’re around if we do.

A few years ago, I told a priest that I felt bad praying to God only when I needed something. He laughed and said, “That’s when you’re supposed to pray. And when things are going well for you, he moves on to someone else who needs him.”

With apologies to the almighty, I think this idea applies to earthly professions, too. Like the tow-truck driver who shows up when your fuel pump goes kaput on Loop 101. Or the air-conditioning repairman who comes to the rescue on a Sunday afternoon in August.

Or, the nurse who is starting another 12-hour shift in the pediatric unit at a local hospital.

From now on, I’m going to make it a point of recognizing these people before our paths cross. I won’t be sending cards and flowers, but perhaps a simple nod to a school bus driver or a more enthusiastic hello to the police officer.

Of course, I won’t feel guilty if I don’t drop by my mechanic’s shop just to shoot the breeze. Besides, he’ll be busy helping someone else.

Which is fine.

Someday, that “someone else” will be me – and the auto mechanic won’t be underappreciated.

Mike McClary can be reached at michaelmcclary@yahoo.com. The views expressed are those of the author.

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