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March 5, 2020

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Workers’ dedication deserves respect

The COVID-19 epidemic that broke out in Wuhan, capital of Hubei Province, and elsewhere is not just a public health crisis confronting our society. It also has been a crucible for humanity.

To some extent, the outbreak has shone a spotlight on individuals from different walks of life, exposing the moral depravity of a few while highlighting the commendable traits of many others.

These days I’ve been tuning in to an online radio show called “No. 42 Night Hotline.” It is named after the two initial digits on the identity cards of people hailing from Hubei.

The anchor of the show invited people in Wuhan to speak about their situation. All kinds of stories poured out, ranging from a husband’s account of how his wife gave birth to the experience of a matron in a medical team from Guangdong Province.

The latest person speaking on the air is a delivery driver known as Xiaolong.

Following the lockdown of Wuhan, delivery drivers like him have been busy as their services became indispensable for a city desperate for access to basic logistics.

Part of his daily routine is to get fresh groceries for customers. Since businesses in the city are allowed open for only a few hours every day, the time left for Xiaolong to buy items on customers’ wish lists is limited. He left home at 6am and had to finish his shopping by 8am, the time of closure for some fresh food markets in Wuhan.

Among those receiving his help are not just humans, but animals as well. He once received messages imploring him to feed a cat stranded in a warehouse.

However he loathed the idea of driving 4.5 kilometers to reach the feline, he went anyway, driven by what he said was a clear conscience when he slept at night. In order to get a rare type of drug for a customer, he drove along empty streets, past row after row of storefront, for a few days, hoping to chance upon a drugstore that was still open — and possibly stocked with the medicine in question.

Upon seeing a pharmacy whose door was half open, he slammed on the scooter’s brake, jumped over the guardrails and went into the store. Luckily, he got what he was looking for.

A strong motivation to not let his customers down has won him respect from people who used to take a patronizing attitude toward blue-collar workers like couriers.

Sanitation workers

Equally respectable are a band of sanitation workers. Wuhan-based Changjiang Daily reported that a city hotel recently accommodated two batches of sanitation workers.

They were placed under a 14-day quarantine there after returning from a stint at a hospital designated for coronavirus patients.

One day when Cheng Yu, a hotel sales manager, checked on the rooms of the sanitation workers, she found they were exceptionally clean and tidy, “as if no one lived there.” Even the trash bags were replaced.

In a trembling voice, the manager said she was touched by the deeds of the workers.

The rooms were paid for by their organizations; they were under no obligation to do housekeeping themselves.

Mind you, the sanitation workers did not perform the well-meaning gesture as a publicity stunt.

They themselves are frontline warriors fighting the coronavirus.

Every day when they took off the protective suits, they were soaking wet.

I have no idea how many people would start to view these ordinary Chinese differently after the outbreak is over.

I do hope, however, that we can show more respect to occupations like delivery driver, sanitation worker, security guard and many others who are out there for the rest of us, dutifully doing their jobs and lighting up the darkness with sparks of humanity and decency.

A few days ago, Shanghai warmed the hearts of hundreds of thousands of delivery drivers, sanitation workers, police officers and urban management inspectors as eateries and citizens voluntarily left free drinks, snacks and homemade dishes at a pick-up booth in downtown Shanghai, to thank them for working tirelessly to keep our city safe and running.

This is a good start.


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