Simple Gifts

Emory Healthcare Market Services Team

Chatting before the start of an editorial meeting, Lynne Anderson told us about a family she had adopted through Winship’s Adopt-A-Family program, one supporting needy families stricken by cancer.  My colleague Morgan and I were so moved and unexpectedly brought to tears by the story (I didn’t even have tissues ready!) that we proposed our marketing team adopt a family as our group’s annual holiday community building event.  Everyone readily agreed – and even better to be helping members of our own Emory community.

While participation was voluntary, it wasn’t surprising that we had 100% participation from our team. After all is there a more noble cause then helping a family in need when confronted by a life-threatening illness? Even though we weren’t able to fill every wish on our family’s list, we were able to provide enough so that every member of the 6-person family, whose patriarch is battling pancreatic cancer, would each have a few gifts under the tree and also provide a gift card to help with daily expenses. In addition to helping a family, it gave our team a chance for fellowship as we gathered to wrap gifts and enjoy a few moments away from the hectic pace of the busy work day.

Our whole team got to benefit from the joy of giving, but I was honored to be the one to deliver the gifts to the family.  The mom and granddaughter greeted me at the door when I arrived. The rest of the family simply enjoying each other’s company sitting by the tree, catching up on the daily news or finishing the day’s homework. They were gracious accepting our humble gifts.  The youngest among them already delighted to play with the colorful bows.  I didn’t stay very long, but I was there long enough to feel the love in the room and their appreciation for a group of strangers who wanted to bring a little joy to their family for Christmas.

As I was driving home down winding country roads and gazing out over the serene rolling hills, Aaron Copeland’s Simple Gifts movement from his ballet Appalachian Spring popped into my head.  Da dum, da da dum dum, da da dum, da da dum…. I have been humming, singing the simple beautiful tune ever since, thinking about this family.  I hope, dare I say I know, we brought them some extra joy and blessings for the holidays.  But I just can’t stop thinking, what happens to this family on December 26th or February, March, April? Long after the decorations are put away and we go about our daily lives with the giving spirit of the season left behind us for another year, what happens to this and other families still in need?

Unfortunately long-term survival rates for pancreatic cancer patients are bleak with the 5-year survival rate barely reaching 6%1.  While I desperately hope otherwise, I know even tougher times are ahead this family as the dad’s cancer progresses.  When he can no longer work, who will be there to help?  And how will they pick up the pieces and move on when the inevitable happens?

While little can help ease the emotional struggle, at least there are options to help with financial hardship.  I was pleased to learn that Winship has a patient assistance fund to help families-in-need year-round.  So as you are considering your new year’s resolutions for 2012, instead of making empty promises to yourself, why not consider how you can help extend the holiday spirit throughout the year?  Whether it is donating funds to a program like Winship’s Patient Assistance Fund or by volunteering at a soup kitchen in the spring, there are many simple ways to help families in need throughout the year.

Our simple gifts mean much to these families. So now instead of feeling down as I hum my the shaker tune, I am hopeful and reminded of the joy givers and receivers find in simple gifts.

Simple Gifts (By Elder Joseph Brackett Jr., 1848)

‘Tis the gift to be simple, ’tis the gift to be free, ’Tis the gift to come down where we ought to be, And when we find ourselves in the place just right,’Twill be in the valley of love and delight.When true simplicity is gain’d, To bow and to bend we shan’t be asham’d, To turn, turn will be our delight ’Till by turning, turning we come round right.

http://seer.cancer.gov/statfacts/html/pancreas.html#survival

How Can I Help?

If you’re interested in helping a family of a cancer patient not just during the holidays, but year-round, the Winship Cancer Institute of Emory University’s Patient Assistance Fund helps provide assistance to families throughout the year. Please use the link above for more information, or contact Mark Hughes by phone at: 404-778-1288 or via email at: mthughe@emory.edu

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