Things I Think: Lessons from the lobby

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Gary Tetz
Gary Tetz

For a microcosm of life in perpetual motion, its pleasures and challenges, and every accompanying human emotion, it's not necessary to loiter at the airport. Just sit quietly in the lobby of any senior care facility.

Pain. Fear. Relief. Anger. Beauty. Courage. Fatigue. Triumph. Sadness. Resolve. All those and more are written across the faces that pass.

During quality lobby time on a recent visit to a post-acute rehab campus, I saw the usual bustlings typical of any long-term care beehive. Emergency arrivals and long-sought departures. Tours and deliveries. Staff hurrying in, or returning to lives already in progress. Hushed phone calls and worried, huddled conversations.

And through it all, an administrator ducking and weaving “Matrix”-movie-like, solving problems in a whoosh and a blur.

But some of the moments stood out more starkly.

A middle-aged man, perhaps a son in distress, rushing past without eye contact, face haunted by anxiety.

A resident waiting for a family member who never came, then wheeling back down the hall, crushed and forlorn.

A rehab patient facing clearly overwhelming difficulties, but carrying an innate aura of joy and peacefulness that would shame any reputable Zen Master.

Or an elderly woman, annoyed and overwhelmed, unleashing a torrent of frustration on the nearest human wearing a name tag.

In her case, I hoped that unfortunate employee understood that people come to us in their most volatile, vulnerable moments, and to just take a deep breath, listen and forgive without taking it personally.

The lobby is a real-world classroom, and every coming and going has much to teach us. Mostly that it's all just life, and everyone's on the same journey we are — deserving of nothing less than our limitless generosity, compassion and patience.


Things I Think is written by Gary Tetz, a national Silver Medalist and regional Gold Medal winner in Humor Writing in the 2014 American Society of Business Publication Editors (ASBPE) awards program.