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OPINION: This note to a Burnaby caretaker just broke me

With so many overwhelming stories each day, it’s these small moments that give us a little solace.
A note taped to an elevator panel in the author's Burnaby building. Chris Campbell photo

This morning I went out for a long walk in the rain because it’s calming and necessary after weeks being cooped up in my apartment on Burnaby Mountain.

Taped to the panel in the elevator was an anonymous note addressed to Thomas, our building’s caretaker.

You can read it above, but it basically thanks Thomas for all of his hard work during the COVID-19 pandemic to keep our buildings common areas clean and sterile.

Thomas has been working like crazy cleaning to help keep people safe.

The note broke me. I don’t know why this simple act of gratitude broke me - instead of all of the other things that have been going on – but it did.

I found myself tearing up on the elevator and while I was walking through the rain. The note was a sudden slap to the face that I had forgotten about Thomas and the great personal risk he is taking every single day to keep our building clean.

I felt guilty and emotional all at the same time. The B.C. government recently released a list of essential services during the pandemic and it was a lengthy one (yes, media is on that list).

People who clean our buildings and offices and public spaces are part of these essential services. They don’t get nearly enough credit for the risks they are taking in these dangerous times.

I’ve been in journalism for 30 years. I’ve written about people at the absolute worst moments of their lives. I’ve been at devastating crime scenes.

All of these events have built up a thick skin to tragedy. I’m not callous to it, but sometimes a little numb because I’ve seen a lot.

So I was a little surprised to find myself crying over a note taped inside an elevator. But perhaps that’s what did it. The simplicity of taking a moment to share this gratitude with everyone.

With so many overwhelming stories each day, it’s these small moments that give us a little solace. That no matter how bad things get, we as a community are pulling together.

Not all of us, of course. There are still profiteers and hoarders who can’t seem to find their humanity during this crisis. But most of us are maintaining our humanity, even if it’s just through simple acts.

So stay calm. Be kind. And know that we will get through this.

Follow Chris Campbell on Twitter @shinebox44.

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