Over the course of the last few days, I have had the pleasure of handing out most of the gifts you got for us. Many of the recipients have been African refugees who have lost just about everything. For some reason or other, they all insisted on opening their gift on the spot. To witness their gratitude was a privilege. You certainly brought a great deal of sunshine to a number of people. One exchange was particularly special and I did want to share this story with you.
There was a work of art donated which was a flat rectangular piece (on soapstone, I was not sure) with the shape of what appeared to be a woman on her knees reaching to the earth. I thought it was one of the most beautiful things I had ever seen and when I set eyes on it, I said: ‘That is so sad, so beautiful and so sad’. The person it was given to was a refugee from Rwanda who had lost her entire family in the 1994 genocide and I thought how appropriate she should be the recipient of such a precious gift. But she did not respond; she just kept staring at the work of art. It suddenly struck that maybe when you have lost everything, you simply cannot tolerate more symbols of suffering so I quickly told her that she did not have to take that gift and that she could simply choose another gift, which she did. But before she left, I had to ask the obvious question: ‘What were you thinking when you first saw that carving?’ And this was her answer. She said: ‘I did not understand ‘why you said this woman was sad’ because she is not sad, she is just praying’. ‘So you like it,’ I asked. ‘Very much’, she answered. ‘Then it is yours’, I said I saw despair; she saw a message of hope. These gifts? We are not the givers, we are the recipients.
On behalf of us all at the Immunodeficiency Service of the Montreal Chest Institute, I thank you and wish you and your other wonderful elves a healthy and peaceful holiday season.