It’s one of the most ubiquitous laments of the pandemic, how time passes in a shapeless blur. “Sunrise, sunset. Swiftly flow the days,” goes the song from the musical “Fiddler on the Roof.” And it’s true — they just somehow disappear, even while seeming to loiter in tedious slow motion. 

Under these conditions, it’s hard to stay rooted in the present, especially in long-term care. We’re stalked by the past, mourning the horrible toll the virus has taken, and we’re menaced by the future, physically exhausted and emotionally depleted with no end in sight. But in a recent conversation with a treasured mentor, I was gifted a jumper-cable jolt back to a more grounded reality. 

Now in his late 80s, he had been a universally beloved professor, and decades of students were shaped by his passion and expertise. So I was shocked when he wondered aloud if he’d really been grateful in the moment. “I had the opportunity to teach the best and brightest, many of whom went on to accomplish great things,” he said. “But did I really appreciate the privilege at the time?” 

It was difficult for me to even contemplate his uncertainty, having seen his passion and joy energize the classroom and fuel countless journeys of self-discovery, including my own. But like most of us, maybe he got caught up in the drama of living, and those exhilarating triumphs slipped away unnoticed.

For long-term care people, his melancholy question might be especially timely. Your passion is clear, and I know you find incredible meaning in caring for your residents. But do you really understand and appreciate the impact you’re having? Now? 

The work you do is hard, and frequently devastating. But somehow, in the midst of this storm, I hope you’ll find a moment every day to truly value the sacred privilege you’ve been given, and the extraordinary difference you make — from sunrise to sunset, and back again.