The Quiet Lights

This morning I walked into our Maintenance Shop. Maybe you don’t know that every healthcare facility, whether hospital or long term care facility, is like a mini-city, requiring services of all kinds all the time. Well, maintenance is one of those key areas. They are the folks who deal with all of the plant operations issues, who make sure we have lights and heat, who keep the buildings safe and in good repair and make sure all of the systems and equipment are working the way they should. It’s a big job, requiring a highly skilled team and a 24-hour commitment and it’s critical to the operation of the facilities, just can’t be without it.

So today when I walked into the Shop, there were people doing some major projects, working on motors and wheelchairs and all sorts of complex systems and things. And then there was Randy. Randy was standing at the worktable with a set of small plastic-looking beads in front of him. He was crouched over his work, intent on what he was doing. What was it? He was putting a glasses chain back together again, putting the beads back in place and adding soft nosepieces to the glasses. He carefully worked the glue and the tiny pieces to ensure that each one was where it belonged and he was intent on his work.

I stood there for a moment, watching. I stood there knowing that the few minutes that Randy would spend would make an enormous difference in the life of one of our elders. Not only would she get her glasses back but with the chain she loves and made more comfortable through the thoughtful efforts of one staff member. You might argue that spending that kind of time repairing a pair of glasses is not what the Maintenance team is supposed to do but I hope that you would see it as I see it—that this is exactly the work that they are meant to do.

Each of us who works with elders does so because we know it matters. Each of us is here to enhance quality of life, to make aging as rich and fulfilling an experience as possible. Randy knew that this elder not only needed her glasses but she needed them to be the way she liked them. He knew that this was not just about the ability to see but also the ability to make choices and to control those choices.

At Chanukah we often talk about the lights and what they symbolize. Sometimes those symbols are our global goals—peace, joy, harmony and the like. Sometimes they are people or groups who help to lead the way. This year I think each flame symbolizes a quiet light, a light like Randy. Randy is not looking for attention or praise yet he is changing the world for the better, bringing his gifts and his caring to light a light for one of the elders we serve.

About the Author
Carol Silver Elliott is President and CEO of The Jewish Home Family, which runs NJ's Jewish Home at Rockleigh, Jewish Home Assisted Living, Jewish Home Foundation and Jewish Home at Home. She joined The Jewish Home Family in 2014. Previously, she served as President and CEO of Cedar Village Retirement Community in Cincinnati, Ohio. She is chair-elect of LeadingAge and past chair of the Association of Jewish Aging Services.
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