'The world shared in our gift'

Marie Havenga • Dec 23, 2017 at 7:00 AM

Christmas came early for my family this year.

And the world shared in our gift.

Last Saturday, I wrote a simple post of gratitude on my personal Facebook page, with an accompanying photo of my mom's eye doctor carrying her through a snow-covered parking lot.

Dr. Gindzin's kindness resonated with readers. This simple 129-word post caught fire, and began to breathe a life of its own. It needed no formal page boost or marketing magic. It simply struck the heart.

One share became two. Then hundreds. And thousands. Many thousands. Too many to count. Local and national news organizations took notice of this viral Christmas season story, an eye doctor carrying an elderly woman through the snow for vision-saving injections — on his day off.

A local television station came to my mom's place for an on-camera interview. A New York City-based site, Love What Matters, published the Facebook post and photo I had shared.

By Monday night, I had received a request from a People Magazine reporter, and got a message from a stranger that my mom's story was on the EllenNation website — yes, that Ellen.

Then, The Weather Channel contacted me for permission to spread the good news. Next, a syndicated broadcast service, a Colorado news station, then an international news organization. The story has been spread by CNN, iHeart Radio, television, print and internet organizations from Dallas to Denver to Florida, China and beyond.

A friend from San Diego messaged me that she had seen my mom's picture and story on the MSN home page.

I sit here in awe, a media person myself, of just how this kind of news spread like this, when it really wasn't intended as news at all.

Here's the backstory, that those other news organizations don't know:

Last week at this time I felt enveloped by worry, the sickening kind of worry that grips your mind, squeezes, and won't let go.

On Thursday, Dec. 14, my mom was admitted to North Ottawa Community Hospital with sepsis, a life-threatening condition. As you just learned above, that was the same day she was scheduled for her crucial every-four-week eye injection. No way it could happen. I couldn't take her out of the hospital, and risk her life, to save her vision.

Thursday and Friday, I kept in contact with Dr. Gindzin's office staff. And I prayed. When it became clear my mom couldn't safely be discharged to travel for eye injections on Friday, Gindzin gave me his cellphone number and said I could call him over the weekend.

After NOCH doctors and nurses slayed the sepsis dragon, they discharged my mom at 11 a.m. Saturday. The clock continued to tick on her vision. If we wait until regular office hours on Monday, it's likely too late. I texted Gindzin. The doctor called me back and agreed to meet us at his Walker office at noon.

If you read the post above, or watched the news, you know that the parking lot was not plowed, a space where Mom's wheelchair could not go. My car couldn't make it up the snow-covered incline, either, to get her close to the door.

Gindzin said simply, and unexpectedly, “I'll carry her.” He lifted her and carried her into the building, examined her eyes, administered the injections and carried her back to the car.

He chose opening his office and tending to his patient's vision over attending a wedding he had been invited to that day.

I sit here now, a week after watching and photographing this act of kindness, wondering why such a simple gesture resonated so deep and so wide in this world.

For our own family, the answer is simple. My mom still has vision in her right eye. That gift glowed when we took her to see her granddaughter's Holmes Elementary School first-grade Christmas concert and art show on Tuesday, and in the way she smiled late last week as she thumbed through 1940s photos tucked away in an old Wurzburg's gift box, tattered at the edges.

This weekend, we'll take her on a Christmas light tour.

How dim an outlook it would be, had Gindzin not given of himself and forfeited time on his day off.

But I ponder, still, why such an intimate and personal gift to my mom has captured the attention of so many.

Perhaps deep inside, we yearn for such displays of selfless generosity, and crave concrete examples of compassion. Perhaps these kinds of actions happen just rarely enough, that when they do, we want to scream from the social media rooftops: “Life is good, and there are good people in it!” We want to share such news with everyone we know, reminding them of what's truly important in life, in hopes of inspiring them, too.

It's like a virtual hug, a friend that will never leave your side, a reminder that there is love and commitment still, no matter how confusing and chaotic life can become.

During this holiday season, my wish for you is that there is someone, or something in your life, that coaxes comfort from despair and well-being from worry. And that during these many material distractions of Christmas, that you, too, embrace the gift of vision, and focus on what truly matters.

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