Copies of the following letter will be included in 86 bags of gifts that will be hung on door handles of rooms in the Cancer Care Alliance units of University of Washington Medical Center this coming Friday.
Preparing for this activity every year always provides me with opportunities for gratitude. Not just gratitude for health and prosperity, also gratitude for the painful lessons that I learn every year in my efforts to be the strong, independent, thoughtful and perfect daughter my parents raised me to be. This year I am learning that I don't have to BE that person. This year I am learning that I can share the opportunity with others. If I stress myself out over it, most of my friends will think that it is too hard for them to do themselves.
Two years ago, we discontinued the one-on-one model of distribution and went for the Santa-style semi-secret model of hanging bags of gifts and then quickly moving on. We were able to distribute more gifts to more people who could then take their time with them without our actual presence. Just the presents! Hohoho!
Because we left letters explaining our purpose and identity, we sometimes got letters in return. Last year we received a letter from a family whose dad did not survive. While clearing out his hospital room, they found his bag of gifts up on the closet shelf. They brought it down, opened it up, read the letter, and then proceeded to give each other the gifts in their dad's name and spirit. It was a healing experience for them which they kindly shared with us.
Now, when I am getting ready for Gift Gang this week, I am keeping this family in mind. I think this annual exercise in the spirit of giving keeps my spirit healthy and joyful. I am grateful for this opportunity.
The gifts in this bag are for you to give away or keep. They are from the Gift Gang of the Pacific Northwest Needle Arts Guild (PNNAG), an educational organization open to all interested in the needle arts. There is no charge to you for this. It is a gift from the knitters, embroiderers, doll makers, seamstresses, quilters and other needle artists of our guild.
The giving of gifts is an important part of winter holidays in most cultures. Making and shopping for gifts are two of the pleasures of the season. Many years ago, one of our members was a nurse at the bone marrow transplant unit of the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center. She noticed that patients and families experienced isolation from the gifting activities of the holiday season. Patients’ energy was put into regaining health and family energy was directed toward support of their loved ones. The impulse to give was there, but there was no time or energy to spare in crafting or shopping for tokens of esteem and affection. Higher priority must be given to the task of healing.
This needlewoman/nurse was inspired to start what PNNAG calls the Gift Gang. During the year, mostly hand-made gifts are accumulated by members. They are then distributed on one day in December to the patients and staff currently in residence at the Seattle Cancer Care Alliance units at UW Medical Center. It is the intention that these various items then be given as gifts to family, friends and clinical staff or kept as a gift.
There is a saying that a gift blesses the giver as well as the recipient. May the blessings of the season be with all of us.
The Gift Gang
Pacific Northwest Needle Arts Guild