Growing up in an Indian household and practicing Hinduism, celebrating Christmas traditions was not our norm, but the act of gift-giving is a prominent one in many Indian customs and Hindu traditions. There are so many variations to the act of giving, or dāna, in Hinduism. My upbringing and tight-knit Indian community back home in Los Angeles shaped my passion and dedication to serving others, doing so thoughtfully, and doing so with the right intentions. Dāna to me carries more than just a meaning of donation or giving – it signifies gratitude, empowerment, and responsibility. Dāna, defined as a noble deed and one without any expectation of something in return, also reminds me of seva, or service.
As we experience the holiday season during the COVID pandemic, we are reminded of how -- like many other aspects of our lives -- gift-giving may take on a different meaning this year. What do we really want to give to others…and also receive? Love, empathy, kindness? An attitude of gratitude? What have we learned about others and ourselves in the last many months of this pandemic? How can we better serve each other, our community during this difficult time? How can we support our community, many of whom are struggling to meet their basic needs? How can we support our patients after they are no longer in our care?
Given the significant and disproportionate impact of this pandemic on underserved communities in San Francisco, particularly the Hispanic/Latinx community, many of us recognized the disparities and disadvantages experienced by our patients. When Adrien Barbas and I applied for the Hearts Grant with the idea to provide a kit of basic resources for our patients as they transitioned from the hospital back to the community, our aim was to reduce the discrepancy between hospital discharge recommendations and the socioeconomic reality our patients face in the community. Patients and families told us what they needed to get on with their lives, most of which are not typically prescribed by providers.
We include items such as surface disinfectant wipes, hand sanitizers, a thermometer, among other items in the discharge kits. By partnering with patients to create a kit with basic resources, we intended to support patients with COVID-19 in having a fairer chance at safely and effectively recovering from their illness and preventing further transmission of the virus to their loved ones.
We strongly feel providing these discharge kits is meeting their most basic needs and not going “above and beyond.” With ongoing contributions, we hope to sustain and expand this work. To date we have distributed more than 75 discharge kits to our patients admitted with COVID-19. More than 82% of surveyed patients reported the discharge kit helps them access resources they otherwise would have trouble obtaining.
The project reminds us of how much we learn and receive from our patients and the community we serve. During these times when we are all stretched thin and in need of respite, love, kindness, empathy, -- I am deeply grateful to our ZSFG family. May we continue working together to exemplify what it means to serve our community and to do so with compassion, humility, kindness, and respect, the qualities of dāna I first learned in my home family.