During the winter holidays, our pediatric unit is festooned to the nines in greenery, glittering balls and ornaments. Stately trees decked with stuffed animals and toys grace each alcove on the floor. In my early days here at the hospital, there was always some acknowledgement of Hanukkah too; a garland of dreidels or decorations made of cobalt blue and white. This week marks the beginning of Hanukkah, the 8 day Jewish festival of lights and it's been a long time since I've seen any blue, white and gold decorations on our floor. By the first day of Hanukkah, I was growing weary of Santa visits and a pervasive sense of Christmas as the ruling paradigm. I didn't think I could do anything about it; I just observed my irritation.
But later that day, one of the nurses came up to me saying: "A surgeon just called me and asked me if the Art Lady could come up with some kind of Hanukkah decorations. The surgeon is Jewish, it's her birthday and every time she comes on our unit and sees only Christmas decorations, she's sad."
Was the doctor reading my mind? I decided to make some decorations STAT in Art Group, although I was a mite concerned about parents becoming upset when their little girl or boy set to cutting out Stars of David or dreidels.
And that's when the tiny miracle happened. That afternoon, most of the children were confined to their rooms on isolation, but one family staying close to the playroom rolled in. I explained that we were making a paper chain with stars for Hanukkah. They became very excited, sat down at the table and the dad asked me "Do you know why they use that dark blue for one of the Hanukkah colors?"
He explained that the cobalt blue was inspired by a kind of dye that was used in ancient Israel. I was impressed, especially when he told me that scientists were still trying to figure out the origins of that dye.
A wonderful hour of linking one paper ring to another followed, with stories and memories exchanged. More people came in and they too, got excited. When we finished, we had a 30 foot-long chain dripping with brilliant yellow stars and blue rings.
I gathered the collection of stars and rings in my arms and carefully placed them in the nurse manager's office. When I arrived the next morning, I wondered whether they would still be sitting there or hanging in the entry way. I entered, turned around and saw them, signaling in their unique way, the miracle of the season.
The world has, for far too long, traded upon exclusivity instead of inclusion and it seems to me, that at this time of year, is there any better time to honor our traditions? Everyone's traditions.