It’s funny how the little things really seem to matter now.

I don’t know if we’re more sensitive, or if we talk to fewer folks, or we’re just getting accustomed to being apart. But all of a sudden, the little things are so treasured.

A former coworker is designing masks for us, customizing to smaller faces, larger heads, using colors, paisleys, polka dots and plaids to lift staff spirits. She meets us in the parking lot and shows us her wares, the tiny nose bands, quilted squares and fetching ribbons, stretched across her tailgate for proper viewing.

We make idle jokes about our masks fogging up our glasses, slowing our thought processes, scrunching our ears.

The postal clerk downtown greets me when I mail monthly packages to my son, or books for my mom longing for her public library. “How is Shorehaven?,” she asks, and really means it.

Mere strangers drop off treats, cards and bouquets for direct care employees. “Be well,” they nod from outside Shorehaven’s locked entrance.

Grade school children stranded at home make cards with well wishes for lonely seniors. “You don’t know me but I care about you,” one third grader scribbles.

Calls are made appealing for extra PPE equipment in case supplies dwindle. Donors send handwritten notes with checks, reminding residents and staff they are held in their prayers.

Some of our residents gather items for Family Promise, launching their own mini-drive to replenish supplies for homeless families. “In these times we have to hold up others,” a resident writes on the package.

Residents’ families deliver pizzas for all shifts, vendors step forward to provide subs, Shorehaven provides free soups weekly and assorted meals to staff coming to work.

Staff help in unusual capacities, shuttling to the beauty shop, reading the vintage classics on our in-house broadcast system, perform comedy skits, Facebook Live aerobics, and care for staff’s children as a free service in our fitness center. Our chaplain’s open office door tells us he’s there to comfort us.

A staff member researches messages of hope and creates signs on our skywalk as daily encouragement. Residents regard each one as another milestone and they trek across their W. Wisconsin destination. “We will get through this challenge together,” is inscribed in bright purple.

Employees conduct zoom meetings, call out spiritual devotions and cheer one another. The staff taking temperatures at the front desks offer hearty hellos and well wishes for a new day.

A small home-based baking company sends dozens of cookies for staff’s children to decorate. Churches feature our residents reading to children on their Easter Sunday livestream. Staff donate kites, word games and art materials to our babysitting service. Lakeview Lane neighbors scrawl out chalk greetings to residents on their driveways.

Optimists call to schedule weekend summer parties in our lakeside pavilion. We stare longingly at Lac La Belle which could soon carry our Shorehaven pontoons. Residents take fishing gear out of storage, fill their bicycle tires and sweep out their kayaks. Our Café LaBelle prepares iced coffee drinks and crispers for hungry staff working extra hours. Rockwell’s sends perch dinners to residents pouring over jigsaw puzzles in sunlit apartments.

It’s different now. It’ll be different for a while. But at Shorehaven we know we’ll weather the storm, and a new dawn will create a new day filled with hope, and light and love for those people who built the neighborhoods we thrive in today.

“It’s just a matter of time,” a resident murmured, passing my office door.