The American Nurse

Day 30 of our quarantine. I am going for a walk to ease my cabin fever. I see a woman walking her dogs. Two schnauzers. She wears a white mask. She is talking, holding a smartphone, doing a video call.

When we pass each other, I step to the other side of the street. I don’t want to violate the eight-foot social-distancing rule, which clearly states: “Back the heck off, buddy, I have mace.”

Some kids who pass us on bicycles. They definitely aren’t following the eight-foot rule. They aren’t even following the eight-centimeter rule. They are traveling maybe 150 miles per hour.

They brush past us so closely that I can smell their little-boy stink. One kid almost knocks the woman over. She drops her phone and cusses.

I am tempted to raise my fists and shout, “You dang kids!” But I can’t. Because a long time ago, I took a solemn vow to never say this phrase against my own kind.

When I was a kid, old man Jensen used to have a sign in his front yard that read: “KEEP OFF LAWN.” He didn’t want anyone touching his grass. He was very particular about his centipede grass, always out there primping it, fertilizing it, reading bedtime stories to it, burping it. To us kids, however, his lawn was perfect for bicycle croquet.

Old man Jensen would come barreling out of his door, trousers pulled up to his nipples, horn rimmed glasses, shaking his fists. “You dang kids!” he’d shout. And if he saw his shadow, it was six more weeks of winter.

The woman in the mask is really upset. She says me in a muffled voice, “Did you see those little [bad words]?”

“Yeah,” I say. “I can’t believe they’re acting so irresponsible.”

And this is what the lady shouts next—I am not making this up. “You dang kids!”

And just like that, old man Jensen lives again.

The woman is originally from Pennsylvania, she moved to Florida to be near her daughter, who is a nurse. This woman is a nurse, too, but she retired last year.

“Been a nurse all my life, basically,” the woman says. “Worked every shift you can imagine. I pulled double shifts, all nights in the ER, twelve to sixteen hours sometimes.”

And in the midst of the coronavirus, the nurses of today are doing the same sorts of things, she says. Some of her nurse friends in Pennsylvania are working themselves to the bone.

I ask the woman if this heavy workload ever starts to discourage nurses, or if they just are born legends.

She laughs. “We’re definitely born that way.”

And she’s being serious. Sort of. “Most every nurse I know says they had some fort of idea they wanted to be a nurse when they were a kid.”

Some children play mother. Some kids play teacher. Some kids jump off their own roof holding an umbrella, expecting to fly, fracturing their own fibula, and their mother keeps them in bed watching “Leave it to Beaver” reruns until they’re forty.

And some kids play nurse.

“It’s kinda cool,” she goes on. “Even as a kid, you just know it’s in your blood. My daughter was the same way, she was always playing doctor with dolls.”

The woman says that her nurse friends up north are working overtime with COVID-19 infections. She says the nurses are enduring lack of sleep, non-stop shifts, irregular eating patterns, and no rest.

“I talked with my best friend last night, and she told me she’s been a nurse for over thirty years, and this is the toughest thing she’s ever been through.

“But you know what else? She said she’s never seen so much love from so many people at once. Some guy bought her gas yesterday. A stranger at the gas station. He saw her in her scrubs and he was like, ‘Can I buy your gas?’”

I don’t blame the man. Each day, nurses all over the U.S. are throwing themselves onto the front lines. They bandage the wounded, hold the hands of the dying, speak soft words to the grieving, make frightened children smile. They breath infected air without a shred of worry for themselves, they drench themselves in the work of kindness. They are our first line of defense against hell. And they are holy.

The woman stops walking. She holds up a cellphone. We are ten feet apart. On the cellphone is the glowing picture of her daughter, who is on a video phone call right now. The girl is in green scrubs. She is wearing a surgical mask and saying to the camera, “Hi!”

She’s on lunch break. And she’s talking to her mom.

“That’s my baby,” the woman says. “A few years ago, she caught walking pneumonia from a patient, almost ruined her. But she went right back to work when she was better. She told me, ‘Mom, I’m a nurse, it’s what I do.’ That made me pretty proud.”

We part ways. She tells me that I ought to be wearing a mask. And I tell her that next time I will. I thank her for all she’s done. I say the same thing to the girl on the phone.

Three boys on bicycles pass us doing 300 miles per hour. They almost knock me over. I lift my fists and shout at them.

Old man Jensen, wherever you are, I owe you a big apology.

God bless nurses.


  1. Cathi Russell - April 15, 2020 8:18 am

    Nurses are ANGELS!

  2. Lynn Poling - April 15, 2020 8:47 am

    What a great story… She described it so well, this nurse. I too am a nurse since 1985. I’m not on the front line like so many anymore, but God wakes me up in the middle of the night and tells me to get up and pray for my Sisters and Brothers in Christ Nurses and all the staff caring for the sick. I am not physically able to fight the fight like I did for so many years so I pray. It’s the scariest at night, darkness all around, skeleton crew working to save lives. So, I pray. It’s awesome to see the appreciation for nurses like I’ve never seen. It makes my heart so warm. Good bye for now. I must pray.

  3. Lita - April 15, 2020 9:19 am

    Nurses, Doctors, Teachers, all those who protect us and keep us safe; all those who work so hard to keep the peace. Bless them all.

  4. Curtis Lee Zeitelhack - April 15, 2020 12:30 pm

    Yes. Bless the nurses and doctors and medical technicians, radiologists, pharmacists, EMTs, firemen/women, police officers, medical researchers, scientists, lab technicians – all the millions of people who are working so hard (some of them at substantial personal danger) to battle COVID 19 and all the other dangers to our collective health and safety. If there is a heaven, they have a special place of honor there. They certainly have a special place of honor in our hearts.

  5. Alice - April 15, 2020 12:46 pm

    Yes God bless our nurses they are special angels here on earth!my daughter is a nurse and I am in awe of what she does and how she keeps going with all this sickness around her!thank you Sean God bless you love you❤️

  6. Joe Patterson - April 15, 2020 1:01 pm

    I have 3 daughters who are nurses and they are special I have always been proud of them even more so now .Thanks for sharing

  7. Molly - April 15, 2020 1:43 pm

    Beautiful words! God bless nurses!

  8. Gayle Wilson - April 15, 2020 2:24 pm

    Sean, thank you for your words of wisdom and humor – all the time, but especially right now.

  9. Gayle Wilson - April 15, 2020 2:26 pm

    Sean, thank you for your words of wisdom & humor – all the time, but especially right now. And yes, nurses are the heroes all the time, but especially right now!

  10. Angela - April 15, 2020 2:45 pm

    I am a retired nurse of 46 years. I am so proud to see the appreciation nurses are finally getting! God bless them and keep them safe!

  11. Tommy - April 15, 2020 3:51 pm

    A daughter who is a CNA & a granddaughter who is an RN. Both special to me. Don’t for get the housekeeping folks in these facilities as well. Truck drivers who keep the goods coming; farmers (esp. dairy) who must go at it every day (been each of those). God bless & strengthen them all.

  12. Linda Moon - April 15, 2020 4:28 pm

    “You dang kids!” You didn’t make this up about the old man and the nurse, Sean. A friend from my childhood that I had not seen in many years became a nurse. One day she called me out of the blue because I was “on her mind”. She didn’t know I had a rare cancer. Because of that conversation with a nurse 13 years ago I went to the one of the best cancer centers in the country for surgery….and I’m not making this up. God Bless Nurses – my friend and all the others, too!

  13. Dawn A Bratcher - April 15, 2020 4:45 pm

    Oh, what a good soul! People are usually good, even if they don’t appear that way, at first. Life can wear you down & if you’re not careful, you end up like the old grouch you knew when you were a kid. My mom and sister were nurses. They worked long hours, sometimes under grueling conditions (my sister was an Air Force Med-Evac Nurse in Europe), but they were patient and kind. They loved their profession, and they are the first ones we call when we feel sick! Thank you, Sean, for telling this nurse’s story. ❤️

  14. Teresa Weeks - April 15, 2020 7:53 pm

    I’m a nurse of over 38 years. Good Blessed all the health care workers putting their life’s on the front lines.

  15. Mary S S Spahr - April 15, 2020 10:41 pm

    I was an active nurse for 43 years. I am 81 1/2 years old now and not in the best of health. But you know what? I feel guilty for sitting in my nice, safe, comfortable house while the new “kids” take the risks and beat themselves nearly to death trying to keep up with the patient load. God Bless them. They are doing the work of God.

  16. Chasity Davis Ritter - April 16, 2020 1:40 am

    As always I have the leaky eyes… I’d see someone about it but they might just make me quit reading your blogs and I’m not about to do that. God wakes me up to talk a lot at night too. I have so many to pray for but yes especially those in the medical field working so hard and so selflessly right now. I have friends who are nurses. I have a sister that’s a CNA and is working in a nursing home a cousin that is an LPN working at the VA center. Another good friend basically working at a nursing home that is ground zero in county that has blown up here in Oklahoma. And more that I’m failing to mention working in the labs and offices but I pray for their safety each night when God and I have our talks. I’m so proud of them under normal circumstances but right now they are truly heroes. In fact our hospital put up a big banner outside today that says “Heroes work here!” It’s awesome I’m considered essential in my job at Walmart and I pray for my coworkers everyday too. It’s a scary time for sure right now but we do what we can even if it’s praying.

  17. Kat - May 26, 2020 5:49 am

    My mom was a nurse. She went back to school after raising her children and got her degree. Six months after a truck rolled her car off the interstate, threw her out the back window, and broke her back, she returned to work at the hospital. Nurses who have the calling are the best nurses. I won’t be a nurse, but my job in IT at a hospital allows me to support these men and women as they follow that calling.


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