Gifts of the Season

Patricia Yarberry Allen, M.D. is a Gynecologist, Director of the New York Menopause Center, Clinical Assistant Professor of Obstetrics and Gynecology at Weill Cornell Medical College, and Assistant Attending Obstetrician and Gynecologist at New York-Presbyterian Hospital. She is a board certified fellow of the American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology. Dr. Allen is also a member of the Faculty Advisory Board and the Women’s Health Director of The Weill Cornell Community Clinic (WCCC). Dr. Allen was the recipient of the 2014 American Medical Women’s Association Presidential Award.

I was looking for Christmas joy everywhere this year. Peeking into the windows of Saks, Bergdorf’s, and Lord & Taylor for their aspirational finery. Participating at the edges of planning for a quick family trip to a warm place. Making lists for those I must remember with checks of thanks for service rendered during the year. Opening countless boxes of chocolate, and baskets of cookies and fruit and wine that arrive from kind people who have me on their list of those who should be remembered for service rendered during the year. Visiting the tree at Rockefeller center with a guest from out of town. Attending holiday parties that are a necessity and a pleasure but do not reach the level of joy.

It sounds more or less like Christmas as usual. But where is the joy?

Then I heard a Christmas story. I have a 30-year-old friend who is also my trainer. When you spend two hours a week with a trainer for years, trust me, you get to know a lot about that person. Brooke is talented as a trainer, kind when I am late at the end of a work day, funny, focused on the job of keeping my muscles and bones as strong as possible and always, always optimistic. “Of course you can do this.” “Look at you! What a great job you are doing!” Who wouldn’t love someone for this alone?

Brooke has worked with Hour Children, an organization that matches mentors with children whose parents are in prison. Brooke spends one afternoon a month with N., “an amazing eight-year-old girl who has had a very difficult life.” She currently lives with her grandmother and eight other children in a small unfurnished apartment in West Harlem, with only a few beds that everyone shares.

Brooke heard that this family had never had a “proper Christmas” and that this would be the third year that Santa would not be visiting the family at all. She decided that she could make a difference: one person acting out of a moral certainty that “Of course I can make this year different for N’s family and give them a Christmas that every child deserves.” Brooke asked N’s grandmother to make a list of what the children needed and wanted. She sent an email to her friends and family and asked them to contribute in any way that they could, letting everyone know that she would buy the tree and decorations, furnish the kitchen, buy linens and basics for the apartment. She set up a Pay Pal link where friends and family could make donations so that these children’s Christmas wishes could come true.

The true spirit of Christmas and real joy comes from giving to those who are in need. Hour Children tapped Brooke’s generous spirit and enabled her to change the lives of others with the first real Christmas for N and her family. It gave me great joy to contribute to this worthy, very personal cause. Perhaps you, too, have found joy this season in contributing to people, charities, or causes that have special meaning for you.

Wishing everyone all the joys of the season—joyous giving included.

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  • JENNIFER December 27, 2010 at 11:54 am

    Thank you Dr. Pat. In a world where so few have so much, your story is inspirational. Thank you for your GIFT of caring and love to all — and especially the JOY you bring to us each and every day.