Things I Think

Adversity, that irrepressible rascal. We’re far too familiar with it in long-term care. At one time or another, we’ve felt oppressed by regulators. Unappreciated by politicians. Maligned by ravenous lawyers, and misunderstood by the public we’re trying to serve. 

But even though we seem to suffer more before morning stand-up than most people do all day, we can set ourselves apart by how we respond. Especially when we embrace the positive attitude of a random guy I met on a hiking trail recently. 

He was toiling up one of the more precipitous switchbacks, and it was impossible not to notice the sleek prosthetic device that connected his knee to his shoe. A little awkward small talk led to the obvious question, impulsively blurted: “What happened?” 

It was a beautiful day for a motorcycle ride, it turns out — right up until the moment he was struck by a speeding car. He lost his leg but not his life.

It’s been tough, he admitted, describing the physical pain and emotional darkness that shadowed his recovery. “But, hey,” he said, brightening and throwing up his hands, “whatcha gonna do?” 

No angry rants. No shaking his fists at the gods. Instead, he was out climbing a mountain — just for a change of pace from his usual daily multi-mile run. Life was cruel and unfair, but his answer was a shrug and a smile.  

The Dalai Lama couldn’t have said it better, and that one-legged mystery hiker is now one of my favorite Zen masters. He reminds me that in the midst of life’s most bitter circumstances, when every instinct cries for justice and self-pity, there’s another, better path.

In the work we do, we face formidable negative perceptions, and our people tackle some of America’s most difficult jobs. But we set ourselves apart — and paint an inspiring picture of our profession — when we maintain relentless positivity. 

Yep, long-term care is hard sometimes. But, hey, whatcha gonna do? n