It’s just a box. Not that different from the one that will probably show up on your doorstep or mine today, maybe stuffed with holiday gifts or toilet paper. So why am I feeling a little choked up standing here staring at it? 

This wave of sudden emotion makes no sense. Usually I associate a crisp square of tape-swaddled cardboard with trivial things I don’t really need — the spawn of late night impulses, anxiety-fueled binges, pointless obsessions and misguided decisions. I’m used to feeling regret and shame at the sight. 

But this one? This one’s different. 

It’s just a box, sitting unopened on a table. Nothing special, except that it’s filled with vaccine and will quite possibly help restore life as we knew it.

And the people standing next to me gaze at it with awe, like it’s an icon glowing in a cathedral. They’re long-term care pharmacy professionals, focused on the duty at hand and not prone to wild flights of irrational sentiment. But I’m pretty sure I caught a furtive tear or two, and I heard some surprisingly unsteady voices.

We all feel the weight of the moment. Across America, wherever that simple box appears, it represents one of the most audacious acts of self-preservation our species has ever attempted. After experiencing months of unspeakable tragedy, we stand together on the cusp of a potential triumph unlike anything that’s ever been witnessed in human history, by anyone. 

No, we don’t know the outcome. Not exactly. But now we have hope, and after months of darkness, that feels like enough. Our minds conjure images of residents reuniting with loved ones, face to face and mask free, hugging, kissing and holding hands like they’ll never let go again. That’s the world those tiny, frozen vials will help recreate. 

It’s just a box. But because of the oh-so-perishable cargo it carries, millions won’t. Which is why it’s about the most beautiful thing I’ve ever seen. 

Things I Think is written by Gary Tetz, a two-time national Silver Medalist and three-time regional Gold and Silver Medal winner in the Association of Business Press Editors (ASBPE) awards program, as well as an Award of Excellence honoree in the recent APEX 2020 Awards. He’s been amusing, inspiring, informing and sometimes befuddling long-term care readers worldwide since the end of a previous century. He is a writer and video producer for Consonus Healthcare Services in Portland, OR.