By Ellen Andersen
As a social worker, I enjoyed working with other medical professionals, taking care of people during an illness in the hospital and afterward, in home health. One of my favorite settings, though, was hospice, where I could had the privilege of helping patients and their families adjust to and cope with a terminal illness. There are multiple aspects to it, from legal arrangements to making medical decisions for a person’s care, to the emotions that surround a person who’s sick and their family. I was the one to help them navigate all of it.
I’d just gotten my job a few months earlier, had adjusted to the commute, and had learned my way around the cities we served.
One day I went into work and my boss, Linda, greeted me, saying “Hi Ellen. I have some bad news. We’re closed now.”
“What do you mean we’re closed?” It didn’t make any sense. Medical services don’t “close”.
“The hospital’s decided to close the hospice. They’re going to contract out hospice services with VistaCare.”
“Why?” I asked.
“I don’t know. It’s just a business decision they’ve made. They’ve been talking about what to do with the hospice side of the business for a while now and that’s what they’ve decided.” Shaking my head, I walked to my car, wondering what to do next.
I looked for work steadily for a few months but nothing panned out. One day, when I picked up the mail I found a letter addressed to eLan anDerson, printed sloppily as a four-year-old would. Eyebrows raised, I opened it. There was no letter or note inside, just two 20 dollar bills. I looked at the envelope again and there was no return address. The postmark was from Los Angeles, about 25 miles from my house. Obviously, the person who sent it didn’t want me to know who they were since I didn’t know anyone in Los Angeles.
I suspected it was someone from the singles class at my church. They all knew I’d lost my job and had been praying for me. I shared my surprise and delight over the gift the following Sunday and mentioned that it had been anonymous. I said I wished I knew who it was so I could thank them. I looked from one person to another but no one gave themselves away. It’s been over 15 years now and I still don’t know who was so generous.
Whoever it was may not have thought of it as much of a sacrifice on their part, but it meant a lot to me. It’s not so much the amount of money they gave, but the fact that they thought of me and wanted to reach out in some way. Even though they couldn’t provide me with another job, they did what they could to show that they cared. That meant a lot. Even if we can’t solve a problem or fix a situation for someone, we can still give of ourselves.
What have you witnessed where you’ve seen someone selflessly give of themselves? Perhaps with their time, or talent. Or maybe you’ve been the one to make a difference for someone else and they let you know. Share it here.