At the beginning of the pandemic, when everyone was trying to get their bearings with lockdowns, work and life disruptions, and constantly changing information, I saw a post shared around social media that went something like this:

A choir is able to sustain a very long note not because everyone holds the note at the same time, but because singers take breaths when they need to, and then join back in.

Our work – yours and mine – is like that too. In the effort to strengthen families and protect children, it may feel like it will fall apart if you take time away. It may even feel irresponsible to take a break when there’s so much at stake.

But it won’t. And it isn’t. In your work, it may feel like everything depends on you – that you’re singing a solo. But we’re in this together. We’re a choir.

That means you need to take a breath sometimes. You need to take a break. You need to take your time.

Let me say that I am a terrible hypocrite right now, and I’m writing this as much as a reminder to myself as I am to encourage it in you. If you’re anything like me, I often fool myself by thinking: “If I just get through this week, then things will be calmer and I will take a break. I won’t work in the evenings or on weekends. It’ll be less busy.

This work, however, has a way of filling the space and time that it’s given. New things always come up, demanding attention. We tell ourselves we don’t have time to pause. That we’ll let people down if we do. That the work will insurmountably pile up if we take our time.

And maybe that’s true. But it turns out what you and I are trying to do – transform conditions so that families have what they need to keep their children safe and nurtured- is long-haul work. We are part of something that has been decades in the making and will likely take decades to advance, perhaps beyond our own lifetimes.

That’s what makes it so important. That’s what makes it so worth it. We are part of something so much bigger than any one of us. We’re part of a big choir sustaining a really long and important note.

So you need to take a breath when you can. According to a survey from Ipsos and Oxford Economics, 55% of Americans don’t use up the vacation days that they earn. We’re not even taking the time that is literally owed us.

The work will be there when you get back. The work will always be there. So take a break. Take a breath. Take the time you need, because it’s actually better for all of us. We need you for the long haul.