For the past year of quarantine, as we’ve watched the spread of COVID-19 and how it’s affected families, friends, businesses and healthcare systems worldwide, we’ve also witnessed the grand ideal of the Parable of the Good Samaritan expressed in simple acts of kindness.
To love and care for your neighbor as yourself is as generous an act as any. It’s direction Danny Thomas took to heart when he founded St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital.
And for nearly 60 years, we all — doctors, researchers, nurses, child life specialists, fundraisers, volunteers and donors, our St. Jude family — have worked toward that ideal. We do so in celebration of the kids treated at St. Jude who go on to realize dreams and goals. And we do so with the memory of those we lost. Beautiful souls like Arianna, who passed away in 2014, just before her eighth birthday.
Last week, as they have on her birthday every year for seven years, Arianna’s family and friends have asked that we join them in performing eight acts of kindness in Arianna’s memory.
Leticia and Enrique, Arianna’s mom and dad, urge us to take our cues from Arianna herself. These don’t have to be extravagant gestures. Even the smallest kindness goes further than we can imagine — check on a neighbor, deliver meals, donate blood, collect trash in a park or on your street.
“In waiting rooms, if there was a kid who was playing by themselves, Arianna was going to go play with that kid. If there was someone who was crying, Arianna would want to know why she was crying and how to fix it. And if a volunteer was handing out crafts, Arianna wanted to help out and hand out or to organize them for her,” Leticia said.
No child should have to carry this weight, but such empathy is indicative of St. Jude patients. They want to help, not because it’s necessary or expected, but because they know what it is to hurt and to be scared.
Giving back helps connect us. That sense of unity has been so necessary during the pandemic, and is crucial to the St. Jude mission. We’re connected through the dreams realized every day by our patients. We’re connected in the collective memory of bereaved parents and families who selflessly continue to see the good and share the love and care they found at St. Jude. It is humbling for those of us who work for the mission. They mentor other bereaved parents, helping them cope with loss. They participate in St. Jude Walk/Run and other fitness events. And they continue, despite their grief — or because of it — to spread awareness and hope.
This is the light Enrique and Leticia, in memory of Arianna, hope to keep shining year after year. A light refracted through the prism of kindness of millions of supporters the world over.