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is gratitude. A far greater form of love.

If you are from the South, you know what I mean by gratitude being a form of love. Love is shown via food, a hug, a wave, laughter, wearing sun dresses cuz it’s FINALLY summer, and hand-writing a thank you. We are hospitality. We are blessed. And we are grateful.

As I ended my graduate program, I was filled with gratitude. Yes, I even made treats for the nurses and staff in our clinic during my last week. It was the least I could do to show how thankful I was for the experience. I feel more than prepared to go into medical social work after my internship in oncology.

Part of the reason I feel so grateful is because of what a large challenge it was to work there. I specifically wanted to intern where I did because it was the nexus of medical needs and social injustice (the hospital where I worked is located on the border to one of the most impoverished neighborhoods in Boston and is one of two Safety Net hospitals receiving MassHealth Medicaid funding – meaning we often treated patients regardless of their ability to pay – but their lack of finances also meant a far deeper story). What social worker WOULDN’T love that! Though that also meant hearing and dealing daily with life challenges that frequently made me feel…you guessed it … grateful! However, I also got to see grace and resilience in action. To be a witness to my patient’s stories was an honor.

But the greatest gift I received was on my second to last day. During my last support group meeting, I received a thank you gift. A mug with my name on it:

Newest desk accessory.

The mug was given to me by a patient who wasn’t actually on my case load. However, I had seen them, and their family, in the clinic during chemo and radiation treatments. Truth was, I was just so pleased to see family there! It was more often for my patient’s families to be unable to be with them during their clinic visits. This patient has such a sweet nature, but is steel underneath.

The gift made me cry. Because I knew that it meant more than just thank you. I knew what that gift meant for that patient. How do you accept a gift knowing that gift was a choice? What consequences result from that choice? What were the other choices they could have made? Why did they feel that mug was the right choice? I was overwhelmed by their gesture and the gratitude they had felt in giving that gift. It is something I will forever cherish. I can’t wait to bring it with me to my next job – and will always be grateful for the lessons I learned while in outpatient oncology.

Always say thank you

Erin

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