In 2016, His Holiness the Dalai Lama and former Archbishop Desmond Tutu spent one week together in deep discussion about joy. How to obtain it and hold on to it in a changing and often chaotic world.

One theme emerged time and again: True and profound joy is found when your focus is not on yourself, but on others. As the Dalai Lama said, “this is the secret to happiness.”

In these chaotic, anxious, and exhausting days of the COVID-19 pandemic, we in health care have seen living proof of this secret to happiness daily, with profound clarity and in awe-inspiring ways.

But, truthfully, we know it hasn’t always felt joyful. Not in the face of too many cases and not enough resources … too much suffering and death … and innumerable concerns and uncertainties.

We worry. But in that worry we discover a wellspring of compassionate care. And in that care is where we find the joy. It’s why we keep showing up to do this demanding and difficult work. It’s why we’re driven to be problem-solvers, fixers, healers and caretakers.

No matter your specific role in the bigger picture, we are all health care professionals, called to provide the leadership our communities and patients desperately need to get through this national crisis. And that means relying on each other, caring for one another and constantly striving to find the joy in the immense job at hand.

COVID-19, the economy, health care disparities, legislation, an election and a toxically divisive cultural environment … it’s all interconnected. It’s all critically important. And it’s OK to acknowledge that it’s also all exhausting. Because it is.

And that’s why it’s more important than ever to make sure that while we are focused on caring for our patients, we don’t lose sight of the need to care for one another … within our own hospitals and health systems, as well as with those across town and across the country.

Our journey still-to-come for COVID-19 in the U.S. is expected to be long. But with a dedication to kindness and a commitment to service with compassion, the joy in what we do will always be present, and it will help us stay focused, motivated and working together toward the ultimate end-goal. I know we all look forward to reaching that day, together.

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