Shelter Island Reporter editorial: It happens every day

What a week. It seems like we’ve been saying this for three months as a pandemic, lost jobs, closed businesses, isolation and mass protests have conspired to skew our sense of time.

A feeling of timelessness — of it happening too slowly or much too fast — is a sign of an era being born, of the wheel of history turning for all to witness.

Some things, of course, remain the same, for good and bad. For the former, we can see on Shelter Island acts of human dignity, progress and fellowship.

What’s dignified about volunteering to pick up trash beside the roads of your hometown ? Easy answer — everything.

The Lions Club organized a day down to the last detail to get folks out to clean up the Island. The drive-through at the Legion was a perfect method in the age of COVID-19 to ensure health protocols while getting materials and information to volunteers. (Good and bad, again, in that the volunteers said roadways were relatively clean, while our shorelines were something else.)

The Lions Club motto — “We Serve” — is put into practice every day on the Island.

The Havens House Farmers Market re-opened, bringing fresh fruit and vegetables and other good things in the open air of a Saturday morning. But we have suspicions that folks go to the market not just for clean food, but also for a positive boost to the psyche, to be with others in a quiet yet lively place, to say hello to friends and also to those they don’t know — yet. It’s an experience where peace is not a concept, but a place.

And we also had the story of a 12-year-old boy given a school assignment to find “a hometown hero.” Cristian Sanders immediately turned to his mother Karin and said, “Mark’s a hero.”

He was speaking of veteran EMT Mark Kanarvogel. Shelter Island Emergency Medical Services volunteers answer the call 24 hours a day, seven days a week, helping people in distress and, in many instances, saving lives.

But Karin and Cristian also wanted to recognize Mark for the help he’s provided “to our little family,” as she put it. That help is nothing monumental, but things such as getting a wayward raccoon out a house, figuring out the heating system, or putting together a playset. It’s testimony that in small acts of kindness, true heroism is revealed through the eyes of a child.

In Albert Camus’ 1947 novel, “The Plague,” (required reading these days) a friend compliments the leading character, a physician who selflessly works to bring comfort to his community, about his heroic work. The doctor says it’s not about heroism, but “decency.” Asked to define decency, the doctor says, “Doing my job.”

We see this every day during this timeless time, and should never fail to recognize it.