SPRINGFIELD, Mo.– For most of us, Christmas is a time best spent gathering around people we know and love but for Stephanie Mata, it’s a chance to gather love for people she hardly knows at all.
“It definitely can tug at your heart strings,” Mata says, “Especially at Cox North, at least in my experience, we have a lot of less fortunate people.”
Stephanie has spent the last two and a half years as an emergency room nurse in a part of Springfield notorious for seeing those who’ve fallen on hard times.
“When you see the less fortunate, you can’t help but feel motivated to go do whatever you can to help them,” she says.
Over those past couple years she’s earned a reputation for herself.
“Empathy is the word I think of,” says Brian Dixon, Assistant Director of Cox North’s Emergency Department.
Though he usually works along side the nursing staff, somehow this Christmas, Stephanie and the other nurses managed to get one secret little miracle past him.
“The first time I heard staff was doing this, one of our nurses got to give away a present to a kid,” Dixon says.
Using their own time and money, the nurses in Cox’s ER put up a tree.
“This is not management,” says Dixon.
Its complete with ornaments.
“This was homegrown from the staff,” he says.
And most important: it even hovers over a pile of gifts reserved for all the girls and boys that visit them.
“To give away a present to a kid who otherwise wouldn’t get something for Christmas? Come on. You can’t beat that,” Dixon says through an uncontainable smile.
It’s all an effort, Stephanie says, to go beyond making people healthy.
“Seeing them smile,” says Mata,” That’s all that matters.”
She wants to make them happy too.
“It’s not about me or the department or anything like that,” she says, “It’s about making a difference in one child’s day.”
But some argue it’s not really Stephanie’s choice.
“I don’t truly think she would be able to see the large impact she has, especially in this community,” Dixon says.
Because this nurse’s happiness is to infectious not to spread.
“It’s not about being a good nurse; it’s about being a good person,” she explains.