Van Beek: Stepping out of fear and into courage |

Van Beek: Stepping out of fear and into courage

“Fear is a reaction, courage is a decision.” — Winston Churchill

This is the year of the hero, and nearly everyone has earned their cape.

Most of us have never before lived through the challenges that we’ve all faced over the past year. We’ve each heard stories of uncommon valor, some from those who surprised us in their willingness to put themselves in danger for the safety of others. While we lost some in the battle, thankfully, most made it through the darkness of illness, uncertainty and fear, and into the light of hope and joy.

During this time, we became acutely aware of the people and things we take for granted; learning that while there were official classifications of services that were considered essential, it only represented a small fraction of what we have come to treasure in our lives.

The people we interact with daily, who provide those essentials, are like extended family and in a community such as ours, that sense of family also goes to those we don’t even know. The visitors, the second-home owners, even the people who just stop off on their way elsewhere. They are interwoven into the essence of our lives and the experience we call Happy Valley.

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With all of the challenges, we have developed a new respect for our first responders: the medical staff, law enforcement officers, firefighters and others, who face danger in ways that most in our community will never experience. We deeply appreciate their willingness to face risk every single day so that we won’t have to. While I am sheriff, I also rely on peer first responders to keep me safe during medical emergencies, fire and other unexpected emergencies. We are all on this ship together.

We take for granted the innocence of naïveté that protects us from the harsh realities these brave souls face on a regular basis. Yet, they continually go above and beyond. Rarely before have we needed such protection and reassurance, and they were there. Please remember to take a few minutes and thank them, for they cherish the honor of service and greatly appreciate knowing that they are hitting the mark of expectations and, hopefully, exceeding them.

The biggest surprise for some came from the realization of just how much we depend on the little things that are integral to our survival — the everyday heroes who rarely get recognized, yet our lives would be hugely empty without them.

With Thanksgiving upon us, we specifically set aside time to reflect on our blessings. Let’s remember to thank those very important people who make our lives special: the teachers, grocers, postal workers, truck drivers, utility providers, plumbers, community service volunteers, sanitation workers, food service workers, veterinarians, public service personnel, maintenance workers, child care providers, the variety of laborers and other key people. A little note of sincere appreciation will truly make their day.

Our gratitude this year is multidimensional. Many of us are returning to a life of normalcy, yet, for some, “normal” will look very different than before the pandemic. We may grieve the past while also looking forward to an exciting new future. Yet, change can be stressful and we might need to muster up a new degree of courage. Much has changed around the world, and we must get past our fear and venture onto the path of bravery, which will lead us to greatness.

On Thanksgiving, as we eat too much, cheer on sports teams that keep us proud regardless of scores, argue with family about nonsense, reminisce with those in attendance about those who are not, and generally be wonderful and obnoxious, simultaneously — remember those who are working full days, away from their family, to make sure you are safe and healthy with yours.

A box of cookies to that ER staff, some sandwiches at the fire station, some hot coffee to your neighborhood patrol officer … all of those things help to make their sacrifice a bit easier, and will make a huge difference in their day.

And, to you … the person who works to keep your family happy, who comforts tears, who provides inspiration, who brightens up the lives of your friends, who keeps everyone laughing despite adversity, who volunteers to help those in need, who despite fear keeps on going, who shares love and creates memories for everyone around them … to you, we all are incredibly grateful.

On behalf of my deputies and to all of my peers in law enforcement, I am grateful for the honor of working with such incredible people and serving a community that I truly value and love. We are a team and its members include everyone in this valley. Wear your superhero cape with pride, for you have earned it! You are my inspiration.

Happy Thanksgiving!

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