We're rightly showing our appreciation during the pandemic for essential workers who are making a huge contribution while many of the rest of us work from home.
Whether it is doctors and nurses tending to patients affected by Covid-19 or the supermarket workers and lorry drivers who ensure the ready supply of fresh food, many are making a Herculean effort.
But eaten bread is soon forgotten. Don't believe me? Take the case of the Religious Sisters of Charity who were (briefly) in the news at the weekend after the Vatican granted them permission to gift lands worth some €200m to the people of Ireland for the new National Maternity Hospital.
Those of us who continue to think that abortion is wrong will naturally be uneasy that the sisters' gift will lead to a hospital where terminations will be carried out.
But the referendum is over and arguments about the right to life of the unborn aside, what is stunning about the reaction to the news is that there has hardly been an ounce of gratitude to the sisters.
Instead, reactions have ranged from 'it's about time' to 'out with the old, in with the new'.
It's not now popular to say so, but Ireland owes a huge debt of gratitude to the Religious Sisters of Charity and other congregations who have made huge sacrifices so that our people could prosper.
Whether in education or healthcare, religious sisters and brothers were building infrastructure at times when our colonial masters weren't inclined to, or the nascent State was unable to.
Coronavirus is a sober time to remember the cholera outbreak in Dublin in 1832. Catherine McAuley established what would later become known as the Sisters of Mercy but at the time were known simply as "the walking nuns".
They went around the streets working with the poor and the sick who had been abandoned by everyone else who was afraid of catching the disease.
At great personal risk, the sisters entered the hospitals to care for those who were sick and dying. They washed, cleaned, fed and offered emotional and spiritual support to the patients. The sisters were the only ones willing to put their necks on the line to open hospitals in Dublin and Cork during the epidemic.
We take the wonderful hospice movement for granted nowadays, but again it was religious sisters who had the vision and the courage to set up the first such institution for the care of the dying in Dublin in 1879.
The sisters looked after those who were dying of TB, typhoid and measles at a time when the capital's death rate was topped only by Calcutta.
But the debt of gratitude is not just historic. There aren't as many sisters today, and the ones there are we probably don't recognise because many have set aside the distinctive religious garb. But they're still there and they're still working with the most vulnerable people in society.
It shouldn't escape our attention that when we think of those who speak up for the homeless, it's Brother Kevin, Father McVerry and Sister Stan who come to mind. They all work alongside marginalised communities.
Sisters and brothers have shown an amazing adaptability to meet new challenges when they arise.
Invariably, when I visit direct provision centres there are sisters from the local convent working with asylum seekers.
I know sisters in Dublin who make it their business to befriend sex workers in a non-judgemental way and assist those who are victims of human trafficking.
Religious brothers I know run a programme for children who have been excluded from education and for whom the system does not have a solution.
The brothers are able to work with these disadvantaged students and help them achieve exam success where the mainstream failed.
There are also the hundreds of retired missionary sisters, priests and brothers returned from overseas appointments and helping the new Irish to integrate.
Whether it is English lessons, tips on inculturation or just a shoulder to cry on in your native language, these elderly religious brothers and sisters are playing a heroic role in many lives.
People will rightly say, but what of Magdalene laundries? Or mother and baby homes? Or Artane? Or Letterfrack? The history of religious congregations in Ireland is a mixed bag. There are, sadly, the egregious criminals as well as the saints, and the corruption of the best is the worst of all.
No account of the role of the Church in Ireland is nor can be complete without the horrific chapters laid out in reports like that of the Ryan Commission. Even if that commission admitted last year that its final report dramatically overestimated the number of children in the home by a margin of four to one due to a counting error. What was not exaggerated was the many lives ruined.
The vast majority of priests and religious brothers and sisters who acted with heroism and absolute probity are as devastated as the rest of us at the abuse endured by so many.
No one should seek to minimise that abuse, but nor should we allow it to completely overshadow the fact that people like the Sisters of Charity gave health, education and welfare to many who would not have had it otherwise.
On the balance sheet of history, the role of religious congregations has negatives as well as positives. Their impact hasn't been all glorious, but it hasn't been all bad either.
As a society we should have the maturity to say that and the generosity of spirit to say a simple "thank you" every now and then to the few sisters and brothers who remain.