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Barbara's Christmas Story

For many, Christmas is a happy, magical time. The holiday brings with it familiar sights and smells that remind us of fond childhood memories. But not for Barbara.

For her, every Christmas becomes the same routine, she volunteers to work because being home alone reminds her of the painful memories of her past. While many others are celebrating the season, Barbara does not share in their joy, and so she works. And every year at the hospital, it's the same inadequate staffing and a lousy cafeteria holiday meal. But Barbara will work because caring for others on Christmas will at least make her feel useful.


Barbara works in a progressive care unit where every 12-hour shift is considerably similar. There are meds to pass and wound care to do, but holidays are slower because with the ancillary departments closed, there's less activity on the unit. It's also less lonely for Barbara to be surrounded by coworkers and patients than to be home alone.


One year, Barbara made a special connection with a ninety-two-year-old patient named Susan. It was Christmas Day and although Susan insisted that her family go home to celebrate, they didn't want to with her in the hospital. They finally agreed to leave after Barbara assured them that she would attend to Susan's every need. She kept her promise to the family and as she did, she got to know this extraordinary woman even better. Susan was wise, kind, and patient too. Barbara wished she could be more like her, and she told her so. She told her how she struggled during the holidays and how Christmas didn't bring her the joy that others seemed to experience.

Susan said to her, "True joy resides in the heart of those, like yourself, who serve others not only on Christmas but all year long."

Barbara realized then that the hospital was the place she needed to be on Christmas because it helped her heart heal when she cared for others, and that was her Christmas joy.


Maybe people come into our lives for a reason. Sometimes, our patients teach us just as much as we teach them. Wishing you all Christmas joy today, wherever you may be!

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