Beliefnet
Rod Dreher

ruthieatfiredept.jpgHere’s a blurry Facebook photo (clearer version here) of my sister Ruthie and her husband Mike at last week’s St. Patrick’s Day parade in St. Francisville. This is the first time I’ve seen her since her hair fell out and her face swelled from the chemo — but her smile is still there, brighter than ever! This past weekend, there were two chicken-dinner fundraisers for her, put on by firefighter friends. Ruthie was too exhausted to go to the one in Baton Rouge on Saturday, but she made the one in St. Francisville on Sunday, to thank everyone who helped out. My folks tell me the number of people who showed up to support Ruthie and her family with donations and with love was overwhelming. “You wouldn’t have believed all the people,” my mom said. “It was incredible, just incredible.”
These fundraisers were conceived and staged by Mike’s firefighter colleagues. Ruthie has received donations and help from her public schoolteacher colleagues. I was thinking this morning that both Ruthie and Mike have given their professional lives over to public service, jobs that don’t pay a lot of money relative to what one could have earned in the private sector. They both felt a strong vocational pull to their respective fields: teaching and firefighting, and are both very good at it. In addition, Mike served his state and his country as a National Guard soldier and officer — a service that, when he was in Iraq for a year, made Ruthie and their children servants of the nation in a very real and demanding way.
A lot of us find it easy to bitch and moan about public employees. I do it too, when I’ve been badly or indifferently served. But before we indulge ourselves in blanket condemnations of public sector workers, remember that that number includes folks like Ruthie and Mike, who have drawn such love and devotion to themselves in this crisis because they are good souls and faithful friends — and who approach their jobs to care for and to serve the public with the same love and devotion. They are only now withdrawing what they’ve been depositing in the community trust for years.

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