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Generosity of Strangers

Posted 7/27/2013

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  We are in Maine this weekend with my husband's almost 9 year old granddaughter. We have not been here with her before, and it is a special delight to see everything through her eyes (a big cliche, I know, but true). Yesterday we took a terrific boat excursion with Diver Ed (www.divered.com) which I highly recommend to anyone who is at MDI with children--and probably even without children.  The boat left from the College of the Atlantic in Bar Harbor, and we sent almost three hours in the bay. Diver Ed, in full diver regalia, goes to the bottom and collects a variety of interesting things (crabs, sea cucmbers, sea stars--the new and politically correct name for starfish--, lobsters etc.)  and brings them topside for everyone to examine. There is a  fancy and excellent camera system so you  watch him  in the ocean, too. Seeing what he sees down there was really interesting and gorgeous. At the end of the trip, everyting that he brought up goes back into the sea (with everyone shouting "Goodbye sea creatures, we love you"). This was a really great afternoon even in the downpouring rain, so I suspect it would be even better on a sunny day.

  So that first paragraph was a way to introduce the fact that I am working remotely with the not so good internet connection, and I trust you will forgive the brevity and likely errors. The topic of the day is the generosity of strangers in general, and a recent experience in particular. I hear stories every week about generous gestures you experience during cancer treatment. For example, many doors are held open,  women are often invited to go to the front of the line at the bank or the bakery, and sometimes when the lunch check comes, it turns out that someone at another table has already paid it. I even heard a story once from a woman, driving bald, who was told by the toll taker on the Mass Pike that the person ahead of her had paid the toll.

  The recent story is an especially nice one. A year or so ago, a woman whom I have known since her diagnosis, called to say that she wanted to mark the 5th anniversary of her breast cancer by donating two prayer shawels (not meant to be worn while prarying, although that surely would be fine, but referring to the fact that prayers were knit into them during their making) that had been given to her during treatment. I very quickly passed them along to two women receiving chemotherapy, and it was a lovely experience for us all.

  Toni-Lee came to see me this week to bring three new and beautiful prayer shawls that her friend had made and wanted to share with women receiving cancer treatment. The very next day, I met a young woman in great distress and despair. She was in the midst of losing her hair, feeling physically crummy, unable to go to work so experiencing serious financial problems, and her longtime boyfriend had just walked out ("I can't deal with the cancer."). I could not fix those real problems, but I could give her a shawl. She immediately wrapped herself in it and wept

  I shared this story with Toni-Lee who passed along my gratitude to the woman who had knit the shawls. Shorly thereafter, I heard from her, asking if I could use more shawls for more women. Obviously our need is sadly endless, so I said "yes".  And here is the really wonderful part:: within 24 hours, she had recruited ten other women to knit. We are likely to have a steady supply of these beautiful shawls, so many of our patients can be warmly wrapped in the generosity of strangers.

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