You might expect a lot of people in stressful positions dealing with high demands and uncontrollable forces to grow short-tempered and caustic when they are forced into long hours of duty and service. Some such workers may "break" a little during the ordeal, but very few.
It's surprising to many of us how calm, considerate, gracious and poised so many of our emergency workers are when there are snow and ice storms, power outages and various other issues that have faced the area in recent weeks.
Somebody gets stuck in the street or road and along comes some law enforcement officer to help them out or get them to safety. No fuss, no muss, just good, caring service. Snow drifts into an area creating a need for plows and salt, and along come the city and county workers. They routinely and efficiently clear the way, and when there is eye contact with a "civilian," there often are smiles or waves of assurance. They deserve friendly support.
One of the toughest jobs is that of the utility people who are forced out in miserable conditions to restore lost power. They have to know where to go, what they must do and how best to minimize the impact on area residents. Imagine being numbed by cold in a cherry-picker 30 feet off the ground, in the dark, trying to make connections on a power pole or transformer so hundreds, maybe even thousands, will get their electricity back.
Yet even though it is a struggle, such workers generally go at it with intensity and expertise that most of us could never muster. One can see them conversing, even smiling now and then, as they go about their hazardous chores. Their camaraderie is commendable.
To be sure, there are times when interaction between emergency people and the public is not the most harmonious. If you were out in freezing cold for hours trying to do a difficult job and someone with picayune complaints invaded your space, you might react a bit roughly, too.
Perhaps other communities have less than desirable experiences with emergency people during times of trouble. But, more often than not, the people on whom Lawrencians and Douglas Countians have to depend for road and utility services are kind and gracious far above and beyond the call of duty.
This is just another example of why so many find it so rewarding to live and work where we do.