Our annual Patient Appreciation Day arrives with spring on Thursday, April 21. It has become my favorite event of the year as it is a chance to meet and thank our many patients past and present. Last year, we celebrated the 25th Anniversary of the opening of the Larrabee Center. About this time, our church asked me to put down some thoughts for one of their publications on the gifts we have been given. Mine have been many!
The Spirt has blessed me in many ways- especially in my eight children, deep friendships, and the opportunity to perform meaningful work. I was given–through no effort of mine–the heart, mind, and hands of a surgeon. And, I was fortunate to be born an American in the middle of the 20th century when even the child of a widow with five children and few resources could realize his dreams.
I have been given the satisfaction of reconstructing patients with cancer, cleft lips, injuries, and more. I have received the joy of knowing these patients as individuals with all of the complexities inherent in the human condition. I have been blessed with unparalleled opportunities to reach out to victims of domestic violence, wars, and natural disasters. These experiences are life altering and a gift beyond measure.
But the gifts of the spirit are like a pebble dropped in a clear pool. Wave after wave of ripples carry the spirit outwards. My children learned early (from many weekend visits to care for patients) the satisfaction those visits brought and the gratitude the patients gave in return. They absorbed while traveling on cleft missions to Latin America or Asia the desperate material poverty and simultaneous spiritual richness in the people we helped.
Another wave of ripples flows from the many fellows and other students we have taught over the decades. They go out to heal and teach and create their own “ripples” in this wonderful saga of life.
Another wave begins in my practice at the Larrabee Center. We celebrated our 25th Anniversary last week. As I looked around the room at so many wonderful friends and colleagues, I can only use the word blessed once more. All of us have found and created a family where we can serve, love, and grow with each other over time.
Martin Luther King often spoke of the “beloved community.” We are all part of this community and can feel only awe that we have been able to touch and be touched by so many wonderful patients, colleagues, family members and friends.