As I sit down to pen this letter, I ask myself “Where to begin?”

Our county has endured an interesting start to 2019. I use the word “endured” to not simply describe the obstacles we met but also to recognize the scrapes and bruises we all sustained. We each have a tale to tell. On numerous occasions, I have heard the words “never seen it this high before.” Many phone calls and emails have arrived at my door with the vast majority reflecting understanding, patience and good humor …

Yes. That 2019 was intended to be there because those were the words I submitted to the newspapers just over one year ago. Our county had just experienced a major flood, and I was writing to send sincere thanks to the many, many folks who were part of a positive and unselfish response.

This new disaster is much different and yet eerily the same. I remember watching huge icebergs float down Beaver Creek, demolish fencing and gut the gravel from so many gravel roads. This time, we can’t see this “bug” with plain eyes. We can only see its impact on fellow communities who are experiencing its wrath in ways we don’t want to replicate.

The flood crested and receded, leaving physical work in its place. This bug’s crest is a forecast largely based on our behavior patterns. Respecting its ability to quickly spread and adjusting our public interactions are meant to flatten the crest and mitigate its impact to our health system. While I may have little to fear, my 95-year-old grandmother risks a very real and potentially catastrophic outcome.

I would like to share a eulogy I heard at a funeral in my home town of Wessington a few years ago. I know. It sounds a little odd to mention a eulogy, so please bear with me.

This young man was sharing stories about growing up near his grandmother’s home and how she continually taught him life’s valuable lessons. Often he would ask her why she so often helped other folks, and she would reply simply, “That’s just what we do.”

This young man moved to Las Vegas later in life. While there, he became part of the mass transit of folks every day who traveled the many busy freeways to get to work. On his return home one evening, there was a stranded motorist alongside the road, waving to get the attention of other motorists. This young man readily stopped to offer his assistance.

She was so excited and stated she had been there for over half an hour and not one person had stopped. Her tire was flat, and she didn’t have the first idea where to begin. Being a farm kid, he certainly knew what needed to be done and set off to work. Just as he was beginning, another motorist pulled over and offered his assistance as well. In no time, the job was complete and this lady went on her way. No money was exchanged, just a handshake and sincere thanks.

These two gentlemen conversed for a bit about their work. Somehow the conversation turned to childhood stories and eventually the question, “Where’d you grow up?” With broad smiles, they both replied, “South Dakota.”

Upon returning home for a visit, this young man shared his tale with his grandmother, being sure to mention that very last detail. And of course her response, “That’s just what we do,”

We cannot always control tough situations, but we can control how we react to them. This virus has forced many of us to pause our busy lives, giving us time to look for ways to help your neighbors. Even the smallest gesture can make a world of difference in a person’s day. I am optimistic we will all learn something about ourselves, our organizations, our employees and our employers.

We will get through this. “That’s just what we do.”

Cheri Loest is chairperson of the Yankton County Commission.

(1) comment

E pluribus

South Dakotans think the CDC fixed the problem with Smithfield in Sioux Falls. But they bypassed local authorities to provide laughably weak “suggestions,” telling Smithfield, that their "recommendations are discretionary and are not required or mandated by the CDC.”

Ms. Loest, do you really think that’s going to keep the virus confined to Sioux Falls? Until we get enough TESTING, we’re being asked by our President to fight this pandemic as “warriors” without weapons.

It’ll be interesting to revisit your cheery talk after our total body count is clear.

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