She wasn’t my Auntie, in case you wondered.
A little before Christmas a patient gave me a red envelope. She smiled as she handed it to me, her manner suggesting she was perhaps a little embarrassed. I can’t pretend to be Sherlock Holmes, but I was pretty sure it contained a Christmas card. I thanked her for it. I don’t remember if I mentioned to her that I presumed it to be a Christmas card, but I set it on the desk and said I would open it later if that was alright with her.
A clinical consultation followed. Then she left the room leaving the envelope behind.
That afternoon, in my office, which was quiet enough to bring my tinnitus to notice, I read then deleted several emails, each deletion a small victory swelling my soul, then corrected and verified some letters, a slow process of removing or inserting apostrophes which sapped my soul back to normal size, all the while glancing occasionally at the envelope.
I have always recognised that I have a slightly atrophied curiosity, but perhaps it is just slow to awaken, since eventually I found myself reaching for the envelope.
But the card was not alone in the envelope. There was also a five pound note. Not a crisp new one, but a much folded one that had obviously had a story of its own.
Perhaps you should know that she was not a wealthy woman by any stretch of the imagination.
What should I do with the five pound note?
- Give it back?
- Write to ask what she would like me to do with it?
- Write a letter of thanks?
- Write a letter of thanks but hint that it was too much?
- Write a letter of thanks and enclose the trust guidance on gratuities?
- Donate it to charity?
- Put it towards biscuits/chocolates for the clinic staff?
- Place it in the endowment fund?
- Have it framed and hung on my wall?
- Disclose it, and my response, at my next appraisal?
Mike McMahon is a Consultant Physician and Rheumatologist for NHS Dumfries and Galloway