Fred, Ray, Bill and Shirley, Hannah: Their Stories Are Our Stories

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio — Let me begin by sincerely and humbly acknowledging that this commentary in many ways is being written by the five people. They represent just a small, small part of the many stories being written during this pandemic. When I say “written,” I don’t mean literally sitting down and writing or typing their stories, but written in the sense that their stories are OUR stories during this difficult time.

The flood, no the tsunami of stories that are impacting us at this time, are truly unbelievable. They are not all happy-ending stories but they are genuine human experiences that touch us on so many different levels. In many ways, they are, to use an apt cliche, “just what the doctor ordered.”

I hope this commentary stands as a tribute to the best of what humanity can be. In my capacity and calling to be a pastor for almost 45 years, I have had the privilege to be involved in peoples’ lives on a level that has been truly awesome. It has nothing to do with me as Ed Noga but rather has to do with people looking for meaning and purpose in this life and afterwards. My weakness and human frailties as a person are united with the realities of living on this planet. I am grateful for these opportunities.

Fred, a local doctor who has come out of retirement, texted me the other day and said, “It’s so different being in the hospital now. We are all here waiting and then helping our bodies fight off this terrible virus.”

What struck me was his inclusivity. We are waiting. We are helping. I could almost hear his tone as he texted me. He represents a huge number of retired health professionals who have come back to help.

There are also stories of those in the medical profession who are volunteering extra time after their normal work hours. The WE Fred texted me is an awfully big WE.

Ray is man of deep faith who is dying and struggling. His health issues are not Covid19 related but they are sapping him of the very life that is so important. He asked for prayer and asked his friends for prayer. His nurses and doctors are doing all that they can at a time when the fragile nature of our lives is so highlighted by current events. His situation, like so many others, reminds me of the prayer:
Lord be with me,
The sea is so large,
My ship is so small
.

Bill and Shirley are owners of a small steel company. Their business is still open and their customers want their product so that workers can still keep working. In response to this crisis, Bill and Shirley are in the office portion of their company early every morning and late into the evening cleaning and disinfecting the workspace. This includes scrubbing the floors.

Although their workforce is now limited and a some workers’ families have been touched by the virus scourge, this couple is doing all they can to comply with proper protocol to keep their workers in the mainstream of the national workforce.

Hannah is a hospital nurse who was sent home with symptoms but subsequently was called back when testing pointed to her not being infected. Right back to work and working extra, she represents the phenomenal force of folks who are caring for all of us as well as themselves. Safety and law enforcement stories similarly abound on the streets and in the neighborhoods of our communities.

As fearful as it can be to watch or listen or read the news, and to share in some of the heartaches of our families and friends, when we open those channels, we are also bombarded with stories that encourage us, cause a tear or two and even make us smile.

Fred, Ray, Bill, Shirley and Hannah and so many, many more people are part of our bigger family.

All of them and so much more is bolstering a spirit that was highlighted recently when Dr. Amy Acton stood by Ohio Gov. Michael Dewine and looked into the camera and said, “I’m not afraid. I’m determined.”

Her determination and our determination will be more infectious than the virus.

The author, the Rev. Edward P. Noga is the retired pastor at St. Patrick Church in Youngstown. He remains active in the community.

Copyright 2020 The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.