Case Study for June 2007
Salvaging something from the wreckage
Helen is Lucy's big sister and because of the fourteen year gap between them, Helen has always been very protective of her little sister. Lucy was a happy, outgoing teenager and her blond curls, dimpled smile and misty blue eyes brought her more than her fair share of boyfriends. None were good enough till Harry appeared. Harry was a university lecturer and Lucy was in awe of his knowledge of art and literature. Lucy believed that she had found a soul mate
As their romance progressed Lucy saw less of her family. In Harry's opinion Lucy's family were an embarrassment. They did not show the deference to his position and opinions that he believed was his due. In fact they were an argumentative lot, thinking that a passionate debate was a good way to find new concepts and to test the durability of old ideas. The fact that Lucy's parents and two sisters were all successful health care professionals did not make them more acceptable to Harry. What could a doctor or dentist know about serious cultural issues?
When Lucy and Harry married Helen was happy for Lucy but harboured reservations about Harry. Harry would sit sullenly and barely communicate on the rare occasions that he and Lucy visited the family. After the birth of Lucy and Harry's second baby Lucy and Harry moved to a different State without leaving a forwarding address. Helen felt confused, hurt and abandoned.
As Christmas approached Helen thought that she would make an approach to her little sister. Such a time of goodwill would perhaps heal whatever wound that had inadvertently been inflicted. So Helen contacted Harry's mother and begged for their address. She gave extra thought to gifts for Lucy, Harry and their two children. Helen wrote a loving message to go with the exquisite linen tablecloth that she wrapped up for Lucy and Harry. She then wrapped a second package with a funny card and a remote controlled robot toy for the children. As she posted the presents Helen believed that Christmas would work its magic and Lucy and her family would feel the love that she was sending.
A week later Helen received a note to say that there was a package waiting for her at the post office. It was just a few days before Christmas and Helen wondered if perhaps Lucy had sent a present in return. Helen was unprepared when the postman handed her the package she had sent to Lucy's children. It was marked "Return to Sender" and was unopened. Helen was stunned. She trembled and almost dropped the lovingly wrapped gift. From a long way away she heard herself ask the post attendant if there was a second package. There wasn't. With a cold heart she examined the "Return to Sender" writing. It was Lucy's plump scrawl.
Who knows? The cruellest aspect of this situation is the insecurity that such a mixed message brings. The gift to Lucy and Harry was accepted but not acknowledged. Helen's gift to the children was rejected out of hand. No explanation or apology or chance to repair their relationship.
Helen thought that she was drowning. Her beloved little sister had always been generous and kind. Helen would not have thought her capable of such calculated meanness. As she walked out of the Post Office Helen was staggering under her burden of grief. After a few minutes Helen realized that she was still clutching the gift to her chest. It seemed like a good solution to throw the gift into a waste bin. But Helen still could not let go of the love. It was then she remembered that there was a St Vincent de Paul Shop nearby. Helen knew that 'Vinnies' preferred to give their best donations to the poor. Everything else went to the charity shop.
When Helen approached the counter at 'Vinnies' she held back the tears that threatened to betray her misery. She could not bring herself to explain why she was bringing in such an expensive toy so she merely asked if the gift could go to a child in need. The sales assistant was delighted to be given such a gift for the Charity so close to Christmas. She assured Helen that it would bring joy to a small child who would otherwise have had little.
As the door closed behind Helen she felt as if a great load had been lifted. Her regret and feelings of abandonment were still real, but by giving again she had broken the curse. This time love had won. Not a great triumph, just enough to live another day.
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