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Easter Baskets & Health Inequities

Updated: Apr 14, 2023

Easter, the holiday, rightfully evokes many positive emotions and feelings: love, joy, and hope to name a few. Easter baskets, however, bring to my mind something else. They cause me to recall a pregame speech from a past life as a college football player.

A couple of decades ago, I had the good fortune to play football at the collegiate level and the last coach I had was originally from New York. His vocabulary was also from New York and was quite colorful. After a while, I tuned out the gratuitous profanity. But, on one memorable occasion, we were preparing to take the field against an opponent who was ranked in the Top 25 in the nation for our level (DIII). Our team was unranked. Our coach delivered an inspiring pregame speech that reached its climax when he alluded to the looks of disgust and disappointment we could expect on our opponents' faces post-game if we managed to pull off an upset. He described this look as "like someone pooped in their Easter baskets" (he may have used a different word than "poop"... but, this is a family friendly blog). Somehow, surprising everyone including ourselves, we did manage to defeat our ranked opponent and indeed the look on their faces in the handshake line at midfield post-game was consistent with what our coach had predicted. From the victors' perspective, this was a very satisfying experience.

In recent years, in an entirely different context, I have noted this same look on the faces of patients and their families. When one informs a patient and his or her family that you suspect a malignant process and they would be best served seeking care at the national cancer center several hours from their home, this news is often met with the "Easter basket" look. When one informs a parent that you believe their child has an acute condition that requires emergent surgical intervention at the large public hospital an hour away, this news is also received with the "Easter basket" look. When one informs a young previously healthy patient that their HIV test was positive. "Easter basket" look. Newly diagnosed diabetes. "Easter basket" look. Renal failure, in need of dialysis. "Easter basket" look. You get the idea. When there are no victors and the disgust and disappointment is on the faces of individuals with whom you identify, your own team, members of your community, the look that is evoked is not nearly as satisfying of an experience.

We are left to combat the "Easter basket" look, and the health inequities that too often produce it, with the true life-giving power of Easter. To overcome darkness with light, sadness with joy, despair with hope.

"Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer."

~Romans 12:12 (NIV)

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