Selfless acts by government officials usually go unheralded in Washington where the public and the press are tough taskmasters. A job well done is not news because it is -- or should be -- the norm.

From the chronicles of the norm, we pulled these stories to remind our readers that their public servants do serve them well:

We start at the top with President Bush. Several years ago, someone placed a burning cross on the Washington lawn of a minor embassy functionary from an African nation. The victim was humiliated and his family was frightened.

The newspaper accounts caught the attention of a man living not too far away at the Naval Observatory, then-Vice President Bush. From the news, he got the impression that the diplomat's neighbors were not terribly sympathetic.

Bush called the command post of the Secret Service and ordered up a convoy of police cars and his own limousine for an "off the record movement." That meant they were to follow normal traffic patterns so as not to draw attention to themselves.

Then, about a half mile from the diplomat's house, Bush ordered the lights and sirens turned on. His Secret Service agents jumped out of the car and ran alongside. He sent someone ahead to alert the African diplomat to meet him on the lawn in full view of all the neighbors.

Bush arrived, invited the diplomat's children to get in the limo and play with his dog, and he went inside to chat. He emerged 10 minutes later, reassured the diplomat that many people would stand by him if he was ever harassed again, and drove away.

There was no press, just enough neighbors to spread the word that the vice president of the United States thought an injustice had been done.

We recently reported on the tragic case of Sgt. Charles Earnest, a Green Beret injured in the crash of an Army Blackhawk helicopter in a training exercise last summer. He lies in a coma at Walter Reed Army Medical Center here. We learned that civilian doctors had recommended a course of rehabilitation therapy for his head injury, but that the Army had refused, saying it was too expensive and too unproven. Earnest's mother had refused to leave his bedside, fearing that the Army had decided to warehouse her son as a vegetable.

Sen. Connie Mack (R-Fla.) read the column and called the Pentagon. The Army changed its mind and announced that Sgt. Earnest will get the recommended treatment.

A young commander of the Afghanistan resistance is recuperating at home from surgery performed free in the United States, thanks to Rep. John Edward Porter (R-Ill.). It marks the third time that Porter has arranged medical care in the United States for members of the Afghan resistance.

The most recent patient was commander Mohammed Zaman, whose feet were shot up by machine-gun fire. Porter arranged for free surgery to be performed at Highland Park Hospital in Illinois because Zaman could not get the care he needed at home.