Thanks, thanks, everywhere a sign of thanks

A Victoria police officer returns from a call to find a message scrawled on the sidewalk beside his car: “Thank U VICPD 4 Your Service.”

Grocery cashiers at a Red Barn Market in Esquimalt look up from their work to see children parading in front of the store with handmade “Thank you!” signs.

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Firefighters in Colwood, busy checking their trucks and preparing for the day ahead, notice a sign propped on a bench across the street from the firehall that says, simply, “Thank You 1st Responders.”

In the age of COVID-19, the only thing spreading faster than the virus, it seems, are random acts of appreciation for people still working on the frontlines in the midst of a pandemic.

From web posts to lampposts, the signs are everywhere and it’s not going unnoticed.

Colwood Fire Chief John Cassidy says that “Thank you” sign, left on a bench across from the firehall, meant more to his firefighters than most people realize.

“From a morale standpoint, it’s amazing what even a small thank you can do,” he said.

“I mean our fire department, our volunteers, our career members, we’re all people as well, so we’re managing the anxiety, the tension.”

Cassidy said some of the volunteer firefighters in his department have been laid off from their regular jobs because of the pandemic. “So I mean having just a quiet ‘thank you’ and a note of appreciation really makes a difference.”

Shannon Aris, who manages the Red Barn Market in Esquimalt, said her staff members were amazed when they looked out the window to see a group of children holding up “Thank You” signs.

“It’s huge,” she said. “I don’t think the employees here realized how important their jobs are.”

The impact of a simple thank you often extends well beyond the intended target. A sidewalk message to a single officer has a way of rippling through the entire department, Victoria Police Chief Del Manak said Friday.

“These small gestures go a long way in motivating the officers and giving them a feeling that they’re appreciated and respected, and they just want to go do that much more,” he said. “I think that’s just the way we’re wired as human beings.

“When these types of goodwill things happen in trying times, it just sends such a positive message and your mindset shifts from something that perhaps could be a bit anxious or stressful to something that is far more positive, and it keeps us in the right frame of mind.”

Victoria police officers took some of that goodwill and paid it forward to healthcare workers on Thursday night.

At the start of their shift, all the on-duty patrol officers rallied at Royal Jubilee, circling the emergency department in their cars with the lights flashing, before getting out to applaud the people working inside.

It was a spur-of-the-moment tribute organized by the officers themselves, Manak said.

“This wasn’t a directive from the chief, which actually, to me, has more meaning because then it’s coming from the heart,” he said.

And, like all the other nods of appreciation in recent days, this one hit the mark.

Dr. Chris Hall, executive medical director with Island Health, posted a note to Manak on Twitter Friday morning, thanking his officers for the 15-car salute.

“This gesture helped our teams so much!” she said. “Thank you.

“We feel more brave together.”

lkines@timescolonist.com

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