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Christmas Message 2006

25-Dec-06 01:18 pm EDT Leave a comment Go to comments

I was reviewing the various messages of Christmas from world leaders this morning and thought what better way to celebrate what’s likely to turn out to be a fairly lonely Christmas away from home this year, but conjuring up a message of my own.

Historically, Christmas messages take the form of epithets of wisdom or counsel from those with far-reaching responsibility and power or influence; such as the Pope, the Queen, the President, the Prime Minister, etc.  I have neither much power, nor, regrettably, much responsibility – but of much wisdom, well I often find that in frequent scarcity too.  But I’ve had many experiences this year upon which to reflect – everything from the dullest of moments, waiting in lines for appointments or the slow wheels of bureaucracy to turn to dealing with life-threatening illness, and everything in between.  So perhaps there is a certain wisdom to share here after all, if even it be the product of a concentrated effort.

For those of you who know me well, the past couple of years have offered a degree of challenge to me which can safely be described as "unprecedented".  All my life before 2003, I’d enjoyed nothing but a nice, relatively rich, safe life. A life I didn’t really appreciate.  Perhaps many of you reading this suspect what I mean, without really understanding it.  Indeed, at first when misfortune struck, I would often ask myself "how unlucky could I possibly be?".  But as one tragedy led to another, I started, strangely, to appreciate periods of time that were otherwise "dull".  In such moments, I saw life worth living if only for the experience of it.

Yes, one can have a life of excitement and unabridged thrills without the melodrama.  At least for a while…but it seems inevitable that sooner or later, one’s luck must run out (at least for most of us) and it is then we find out who we really are inside – what kind of adversity we can face, how strong a character we are, etc.  This year, I had to face a challenge – a serious, life threatening blood-infection.  Called a "staph-infection" for short, this bacteria can perforate the heart and destroy heart muscle tissue and the cartilage in bone joints.  I was extremely fortunate in a way, because despite a pretty serious infection (or so I was told) there was no damage done to my body’s tissues.  The bacteria was repulsed with the aid of antibiotics, and, mercifully, I have fully recovered from the incident.

But it was unlucky that I was infected at all – it’s an increasingly common thing, but still not very common – and it cost me nearly 2 months of hospitalization, right through this past summer, up until my birthday at the beginning of August.  A birthday I’d resolved to not spend in hospital, and was again fortunate that the treatment went well enough to warrant my release.  I was also fortunate that my employer decided to offer me full compensation even though I was not entitled to one red cent of assistance.

In the end, I choose to think of myself as a very fortunate person but not because of these instances of personal good luck in and of themselves.  When I think back to my time in hospital this year, I think of those I met, and how they are doing – thinking of how (un)lucky they are.  There was one fellow patient I think of in particular, because he started caring about me from the very second I entered the room, for which I am grateful; who had a lot to be thankful for himself.  His family, an extended tribe numbering in the hundreds it seemed, was there nightly to keep him company.  And I think of the other patients in the hospital I met; the woman undergoing radiation treatment for her cancer who showed me the ‘V’ sign, the younger 20-something patient who looked so full of life, despite his terminal respiratory disease, and of those I saw while I was stuck in emergency those first few days – the one’s with tubes everywhere not quite looking like they’d make it.  They seemed less lucky than I.

A lot less lucky.

That sorta redefines one’s impressions of what ‘luck’ is.  And I could have fared much worse than I did.  Yes, this Christmas for me shall be about appreciating all that I have, while hoping those less fortunate (and there are more than a few, despite all I’ve put up with these past few years) experience less pain, less challenge in the year ahead.

To express that hope, I also hope you’ll join me in visiting a website I heard of recently: http://www.kiva.org which gives each of us the opportunity to help others have hope in the year to come.

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