Charlie's choice

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Gary Tetz
Gary Tetz

For all you passionate, committed long-term care professionals who chose this career path for only the right reasons, I think I've found your kindred spirit.

But first a gasp-worthy admission.

Until last weekend, I'd never seen the 1971 film “Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory.” (That's not the worst of it. I haven't seen “Top Gun” or “Star Wars” either.) But with all the chaos and horribleness in the world, a little innocent escape to a candy utopia seemed especially enticing.

In the movie, Charlie, played by Peter Ostrum, is a delightful but destitute child who tears into a Wonka Bar, desperately seeking a Golden Ticket to a lifetime supply. Watching his impressive performance on-screen, I thought, “What an adorable kid! I wonder what other movies he's been in.”

Rushing straight to the Oracle at Google, I discovered a shocking answer: None. Not one. The 13-year-old actor finished Willy Wonka, turned down a three-film contract, and walked away from the spotlight forever.

And then he became … a veterinarian, working mostly with horses and cows in the decades since at a veterinary clinic in upstate New York.

Stubbornly media averse, for years he avoided even talking about his experiences making the film. "I wanted people to judge me on who I was, not what I'd done," he said in a rare interview.

Such an intentional decision to choose a life of meaning and purpose over a wildly more lucrative option is rare and inspiring. You simply don't run across folks like that very often these days — except in our profession.

Someday, I'd love to see him take center stage at a LeadingAge or AHCA convention. He'd tell his story, and be celebrated for his choice and priorities by an audience of those who perhaps understand it best — you.

I'd love to be the one to introduce him, and would lobby heavily for the privilege.

“Welcome to long-term care, Mr. Ostrum,” I'd say. “These are your people.”

Things I Think is written by Gary Tetz, a national Silver Medalist and regional Gold Medal winner in the Association of Business Press Editors (ASBPE) awards program. He has amused, informed and sometimes befuddled long-term care readers worldwide since his debut with the former at the end of a previous century. He is a multimedia consultant for Consonus Healthcare Services in Portland, OR.


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Things I Think

Things I Think is written by longtime industry columnist Gary Tetz, who resides in Portland, OR. Since his debut with at the end of a previous century, he has continued to amuse, inform and sometimes befuddle long-term care readers worldwide.