Hospital Visit Take 2: Secondary goes to St Mary's

The younger youth heard about the first round of Christmas caroling and wanted to get in on the action, so we organized a second hospital visit. Read on to hear what happened:

hospital-02A group of students from St. Mark’s Coptic Orthodox Church in London visited St. Mary’s Hospital near Paddington to distribute gifts and sing Christmas carols to the patients within the hospital. This hospital visit lasted several hours, but it was well worth the time, seeing the smiles on the patients’ faces, some of whom would be remaining within the hospital straight through till Christmas day.

Surprisingly, one of the most difficult parts of the day was transporting the presents from the Church to the hospital. It may sound simple, but in fact, the logistics of transporting several sacks full of gifts and chocolates with only four pairs of hands at our disposal was rather challenging. Not only were the bags heavy on our shoulders, but the temptation to not run away and keep the presents to ourselves was far more difficult to resist. Nonetheless, through God’s grace, the group was able to transport the gifts safely; as well as distribute gifts to any homeless people we passed along the way, brightening the day of those who were cold, without shelter, and lonely. And ultimately, that was our goal throughout: to brighten up someone’s day.

Upon arriving at the hospital, we met the rest of the group, and were directed by the staff to one of the surgical wards. We introduced ourselves to the patients, and began taking requests for Christmas songs. When a song was requested that we knew, we sang to our hearts’ content. Unfortunately, our repertoire of songs was slightly limited, and a significant portion of the group lacked the singing abilities one would expect from Christmas carolers. We were not necessarily bad, but one could argue we were not that good either. Nevertheless, on the whole, patients seemed excited and happy to receive our singing. We received some light-hearted criticisms for the boys to “sing louder and stronger”, and the girls, typically, and justifiably, were praised for their angelic singing voices. Once the group finished singing, we distributed presents and interacted with as many patients as possible. It was touching to see the happiness on each person’s face from something so simple.

Following this we visited a number of other wards (including the orthopaedic and paediatric wards). We followed a similar routine in each: the group would sing, talk to patients, distribute presents, and then move onwards. One could easily see this becoming mundane, bearing in mind that the most requested song was Jingle Bells, and 15 youth crammed into a cubicle could be quite stuffy, but the patients made it all worthwhile – each one different and special in their own way. Some patients were very happy to see carolers, whereas others seemed to regret ever accepting us into their rooms (thankfully, the sight of presents seemed to compensate for our mediocre singing.

And we discovered that, at the end of the day, it was not the presents or the singing that people really wanted, but the company of other people; people aside from their doctors and nurses who were required to take care of them. In fact some people, who had not seen their friends or families possibly for some time, even shed tears at the sight of a group of strangers who took time out of their day to visit these patients at the hospital. It seems a universal truth: every person desires to love and to be loved; it is something in our nature as humans.

Many of the patients we visited felt loved and, as a result, were joyful. How do I know this? I was told by the many patients with whom I got the chance to speak to. I also know from my own experience that love brings joy. I feel joyful most days, because I feel God in my life most days. Why is that? It is simple; God is Love. And so I can say the day was a success. The group managed to share Christ’s love with those we visited. Thanks be to God, because without Him the day’s accomplishments would not have been possible.

St Mark's Coptic Orthodox Church in London is one of the oldest Coptic churches in the lands of the immigration, and one of the first to be supported and cared for by our beloved patriarch, HH the late Pope Shenouda III.

  • St Mark's Coptic Orthodox Church
    Allen Street, Kensington
    London W8 6UX