Once again, it’s the ‘season of giving.’ Medical students recently hit the cold and snowy streets of Ann Arbor to collect donations during Galen’s Tag Days 2013. Members of the Detroit Red Wings decked our halls to bring smiles to patients’ (and employees’) faces. And people don festive holiday ties, sweaters and socks to bring a little bit of joy into an ordinary day. Each December, I am energized by the spirit of cheer and generosity that is amplified this time of year.
I’ve written before on the topic of giving back as a way to make the world a better place. At UMHS, we don’t have to look beyond our own walls to witness and experience many inspiring examples of people of all ages and abilities giving back in meaningful ways.
Consider musician-composer Paul Skripnik who, at the age of 29, put on a patient gown and prepared to undergo an operation surgery that he hoped would alleviate him of the daily threat of seizures and allow him to do what he loves most – write and play music. For Paul, living with epilepsy meant living with a troublesome burden that left him afraid to walk on the sidewalk, cross the street or drive. He longed for treatment that would give him hope and health, and he found both as a patient in the UMHS Comprehensive Epilepsy Program. After a series of tests and consultations, the epilepsy care team led by Drs. Simon Glynn and Oren Sagher determined a treatment plan for Paul. In September 2011, he underwent a successful brain surgery that eliminated his seizures. This year, Paul celebrated a year and a half of seizure-free living with a concert featuring his original compositions. Additionally, in October, he performed and participated in a lecture as part of U-M’s Investing in Ability Week. Paul has turned his challenging experience into an opportunity to give back by increasing awareness and generating support for others living with epilepsy.
Then, there are wonderful people like Pat and Frank Ducato. Seven years ago, Frank experienced life-saving care at UMHS. In 2009, the couple decided to give back as volunteers in the Comprehensive Cancer Center. One afternoon each week, Pat provides assistance as a greeter at the CCC main lobby courtesy desk, while Frank helps patients and visitors access important cancer information as a volunteer in the Patient Education Resource Center. When interviewed for a story published last fall, Frank recalled giving some coloring books and cancer literature to the children of a mom undergoing breast cancer treatment. He remembered the husband coming up to him during the family’s next visit to thank him and say that after the children read the literature, they treated their mother differently. In Frank’s own words, he conveys the power of giving: “You get so much from being able to help somebody like that.”
And, finally, I was recently reminded of the extraordinary and generous act of a very special fourth-grader named Maya. A few years ago, when annual giving officer Kathy Valley opened one of many holiday cards, she found three one-dollar bills and the following message: “Here is the last of my Christmas money. Please use it to take care of people with cancer, from Maya.”
Generosity comes in all types and sizes. Whether it is $3, three hours of volunteer service, three handmade quilts or three months of participation in a clinical trial, every act of giving contributes to our greater mission to help and heal.
Charles Dickens, author of the classic holiday novella A Christmas Carol, once said “No one is useless in this world who lightens the burdens of another.”
This might be the time of year when society most publicly encourages and displays the spirit of generosity, but here at the University of Michigan Health System, the season of giving lasts 365 days a year. This is a place where generosity and compassion drive the important work we do each and every day, and we couldn’t do what we do as well as we do it without our exceptional faculty, staff, students, volunteers, philanthropists, advocates, friends and supporters.
Enjoy “Never Doubt,” a slideshow that celebrates giving at UMHS, and feel free to share your experiences with generosity in the comments section below.
Thanks for all that you do!