If there’s any silver lining about COVID-19, it’s that many people now have a renewed appreciation and respect for everyone working on the front lines.
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Robert Johnson took a job working security at Kaiser Permanente Downey Medical Center in Downey, California at the start of the pandemic. As a former U.S. Marine, Robert knows a lot about being on the front lines.
Robert works the overnight shift from midnight to 8 AM. He also works a second job where he helps disabled adults. He only gets between 2 and 6 hours of sleep a night, but that doesn’t stop him from maintaining a positive attitude that his coworkers find infectious.
“If I look back into my life, I cannot name one day that I’ve been depressed. Not one. I’ve always had a positive attitude,” Robert said. “The Marine Corps taught me that there are no problems in life. You only have challenges that you will overcome.”
One of Robert’s duties involves screening healthcare workers before they enter the hospital. One morning, instead of asking an exhausted nurse the standard yes or no questions on his form, he asked her,” Are you feeling great today?”
Out of habit she said no, but when she realized Robert’s intention she broke into a big smile. Robert loved being able to make an exhausted healthcare worker smile, so he started asking the question of all staff. It didn’t take long before word spread about the kind security guard who was going out of his way to brighten days.
Months later, staff members now leave the building en masse after their shifts so they can say goodbye to Robert. As soon as the door opens, Robert starts cheering like they’ve just won the Super Bowl, and the exhausted workers can’t help but join in to give themselves and each other a much-deserved round of applause.
“Sometimes we have up to, like, 10 to sometimes 18 nurses walk out and we just kind of wait for each other,” said Kelly Wilson, R.N., who works in the neonatal intensive care unit. “It’s like a cheer squad.
Lisa says the fact that Robert is there at the beginning and end of their to literally cheer them on means the world to everyone at work. “We have a lot of things thrown at us all the time where we work on high stress levels all the time,” she said. “Maybe some people feel defeated leaving work, and he (Robert) just gives that extra energy to be positive.”
Many nurses at Kaiser say that seeing Robert is a highlight of their day. They even got together and awarded him a BEE Award, which means, “being extraordinary ever day.”
For Robert, the joy is all his. He feels it’s his job to make his coworkers happy, especially since they’re working so hard during a difficult time in history.
“These are individuals who are taking time away from their life, coming here, putting a majority of their time to work here,” he said. “And I show a lot of appreciation for that. That’s why I try to bring out a smile. Look what you have done!”
Robert says that when you love what you do, you never really have to work. We could all use that reminder! It’s also worth noting that one person has the power to change multiple people’s mood with just a kind word or smile!
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