Yesterday was one of those magical days. Start to finish. It started out with a project I've been asked to participate in with some colleagues from work. A rebranding exercise for a local non-profit who works with childern who have cancer, their families and friends as well as the hospitals, doctors and staff who care for the child. They "fill in the gaps" between services offered by the hospital, other non-profits and the state. The woman who started the organization, lost her 5 year old to cancer many years ago and one of her ways of dealing with her horrible loss, was to build a place of comfort, joy and support for others who have to go through what she had to. She's created a remarkable organization, focused on joy. Their working principle is that whatever time anyone of their clients has, it should be filled with as much joy and happiness as is possible. So they bring music and musicians into the cancer ward. They connect kids with 'buddies' who hang out with them during chemo, play with them when their parents need a break, whatever the child needs. They provide a community and navigational tools for overwhelmed families. It's just a lovely and worthwhile organization.
So I was asked to help on this project, by a man I've worked with for many years, and whom I deeply admire. This man has always been such a support to me through my own journey with balancing diabetes and work. Supportive, safe and an advocate for me. So when he asked if I would help, I did not hesitate to say yes. But I have to admit that inside I was a little nervous. Nervous about getting close to such a sad and hard place. Apprehensive about feeling sadder, when I work so hard to find joy in my own life. And guilty that I was feeling these feelings.
After a bit of thought though, I realized that my friend had invited me to work on this project because of my own experiences with illness and disease. I realized that I had something to offer beyond my business and design skills. I had a special insight that though, not exactly the same as what this organization dealt with, had some shared aspects that could prove useful. My experiences with living with diabetes could possibly add to what my team had to offer this group. So though I was a bit scared, I was also excited.
So yesterday we met with the organization and it was amazing. It went so well and the project is very exciting. I brought my 20 things I know about diabetes book as well as my collage journal, to show a visual expression of one person's disease process. And people saw it and understood it in a way I've never experienced before. Plus the insights of living with disease well, did help in the project, both in credibility and understanding of the right tone needed. There is still a lot to be done, but we are off to a good start. And what an exciting and meaningful day!
I came home very tired but happy, excited to share all that had happened with my husband over dinner. My husband I discussed going to a nice restuarant and maybe a movie afterward, but in the end, we ended up just going to a local mexican restuarant chain. The food is pretty good but the atmosphere is basically cafeteria style. Lot's of tables, with people you don't know, eating close by. I sat down first while my husband was getting the food. I took out my hello kitty bag, pulled out my bloodtest meter and took a blood test. And then suddenly, a voice came from behind me. A young boy, probably around 8, bounced into view, exclaiming excitedly that "he had one of those too". I said "you do! Wow, we're just alike." He could barely contain himself with excitement. He told me how he had a couple of meters because sometimes they forget one. He told me how he'd been diagnosed a year and half ago and how "he was getting the hang of it". We talked for a few minutes and then his father came over and said how his son was always noticing people with diabetes. That he had been sad about taking his blood test and shot earlier that evening but now he was happy because he'd found someone else who also had diabetes too. He then turned to his son and said, "see honey, you're not alone". My husband arrived and we began to eat and again a voice came from behind. The little boy said from his chair, "you're having a burrito and I had a burrito and we're both diabetics!" And then he smiled. I said yes, we were a lot alike and I literally had to choke back the tears. After a while the family got up to leave and as they passed the table, the boy said goodbye. His father said thank-you to me for talking with his son and I said that no, it was all my pleasure. I then turned to the boy and said I knew that the bloodtests were hard but he was very brave and strong. His dad said to his son, "yes you are strong" and flexed his arm. And his son laughed and said, "dad, it makes me strong on the inside not the outside!" and giggled and was gone. Now I really had to choke back the tears.
Oh what a day! I still can't quite believe it. I felt so visible, connected, contributing, and recieving as a diabetic and a person. As a person with diabetes. As a whole person with diabetes. The day was about giving and recieving so much in return. And then in the evening, by just taking a blood test, getting the unexpected gift of connecting with such a sweet and wonderful boy. His joy in finding someone like him, his excitement in sharing all that he'd accomplished, and his wisdom in knowing that he was stronger on the inside because of all that he had to do with diabetes, truly moved and honored me. I've never had this sort of thing happen to me before, and how amazing that it did happen on a day that had been so focused on children and illness. It was just magical.
Yesterday, I learned a big lesson. By opening up to something that I was nervous about, by showing up to help others in need, by trusting my friend in asking me, by acknowledging what I have to offer because of this disease, by being open and sharing of my personal insights, I was showered with unexpected gifts and affirmation in return. By reaching out beyond my comfort zone, I was comforted in ways I never imagined were possible.
Oh, what an magical day!