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Gifts That Surround Us

December 24, 2020
by Mark David Siegel

When Della reached home her intoxication gave way a little to prudence and reason. She got out her curling irons and lighted the gas and went to work repairing the ravages made by generosity added to love. Which is always a tremendous task, dear friends—a mammoth task.

-O. Henry (The Gift of the Magi)

Hi everyone,

It takes time for eyes to adjust to the dark, so we may not immediately see the gifts surrounding us as this gloomy year limps to a close. But look around; they’re everywhere.

For me, the gifts have included the fearlessness of my wife, who overcame a professional setback when COVID-19 put a pause on indoorcooking classes. They included the determination of my daughters, who withstood months of social distancing so we could be together for the holidays. And they included the resilience of my 97-year-old mother who rebounded from severe illness with the support of her children, grandchildren, and a magical nurse named Regina.

At work, the gifts included the work of our hospital community, which stared down the pandemic during its darkest days, remaining composed and focused despite initial uncertainty about PPE, the stresses of unpredictable work schedules, and demands that they work outside their comfort zones. Because of their efforts, hundreds of desperately ill patients returned home, and because of their compassion and courage, no patient was ever truly alone. They accomplished all this despite personal vulnerability to illness and an epidemic of suffering unlike anything we’ve experienced before. We couldn’t have accomplished any of this without the support of hospital, school, and department leadership, who communicated openly and gave us the medication, equipment, and staff we needed to provide extraordinary care.

In the country at large, the gifts included a renewed commitment to social justice, to truth, and to science, the latter epitomized by the stunning creation of two novel vaccines that will lead us out of this viral nightmare.

But of all the gifts, the most precious is the hope I feel this morning, knowing we will emerge from 2020 with well-earned pride for what we’ve accomplished—the knowledge gained, the obstacles overcome, the lives saved—knowing we did it together. We fought a once-in-a-lifetime plague and prevailed. Yes, we’ve been battered and the battle isn’t over, but we’ve persisted and better days are coming.

So, on this Christmas Day, let’s give thanks for the gifts that surround us. Sometimes they’re hard to see, but they’re precious nevertheless. Thanks to all of you for keeping the flame glowing with your talent, generosity, and kindness throughout this difficult year.

Wishing all of you Happy Holidays full of warmth, comfort, and increasing light,


For further reading: The Gift of the Magi

PS We’ll be leaving for Vermont for several days of quarantined R&R on Lake Champlain (I’ll be leaving after I get my vaccine tomorrow afternoon).

PPS This is the last PD-Notes for 2020. Next up- our annual international New Year’s collaborative. Instructions to follow!


Submitted by Mark David Siegel on December 25, 2020