Changing the World Starts with One
By Tom Karlya
Ann sits at the train station in Bridgeport. I don't know if she's there on the weekends but every weekday at 7:30 a.m. she sits waiting to board the 7:55. "I volunteer," she tells me. I ask for what organization. "Not an organization. A man. A friend of mine. He can't take care of himself anymore. I'm all he has. If I don't go to his house, he doesn't have a good day." She's in her seventies and she's been taking care of her friend for many years. "He's worse off than I am. It's important that I go every day." Volunteerism defined. Some might say that Ann won't change the world. To one man, Ann represents the universe.
It's a Friday evening. I'm heading toward the wake of Jay's mother. Jay and his wife, Mary Jo, are very active in the diabetes world. Mary Jo has lived with it for a long time. She has allowed herself to be part of research projects, raised money, and became a mom, at a time when having diabetes and becoming a mom didn't go hand-in-hand. Jay exemplifies what Webster means by ‘a really good man'. Jay almost single handedly was responsible (although he would be quick to defer the credit away) for adding a diabetes center at Brookhaven Memorial Hospital on Long Island.
I arrived at the funeral home and was face to face with my friend. Jay is a big guy. His heart is ten times as big. He's an active member of the Lions Club. He ‘gives back' a lot. "I will find the time," he said. He looks at his mother lying in the casket. "This will hit me, but I can't let it tonight." His eyes fill. "It will hit me." I put my hand on my friend's arm. He wants to say something else. He's upset that his mom has died but he looks hurt from anger or from not understanding something else. He shares his anger. "My mom never took care of her diabetes. Never. She wouldn't even test her blood. She would just take her Insulin shot once a day. But that wasn't good enough."
"Never tested her blood. Just took over 200 units of insulin a day." Jay's mom was about 5'3" and not a big woman at all. I'm guessing at her height but she could not have been too much more or less, one way or the other. I tried not to react to his statement. Over 200 units is a lot of insulin to take. It didn't matter. Well, it didn't matter now. I could tell that Jay was thinking of all the good times growing up. Mom being, well, a mom. He wanted that back. He wanted her back and was mad at diabetes.
Ann and Jay's mom are two women who mean everything to someone; two women who had an impact on someone else's world. One is probably doing far too much and the other, at the end, did not do enough.
How many people choose not to help or not to be involved? How many times have people said that they are too insignificant, or too busy, to make a difference? So they do nothing. Imagine if Ann felt that way or if Jay and his wife stopped doing all they do because they were mad at diabetes. Ann changed the world for one person and an entire community has a diabetes center because of another. Both could have said no because there is no reason for them to say yes, except they want to. Ann probably has better things to do and Jay, having a wife with diabetes and mom who he now lost to diabetes, could be a very angry person. You can come up with a thousand excuses not to do something, but you only need one good reason to do something. Jay and Ann found the one good reason.
Tomorrow at 7:30 a.m., Ann will be at the Bridgeport train station and Jay and Mary Jo will be back helping others. Why are you not doing something today to make a difference for the world? For just one person outside your family? For yourself? It surely sounds simple when you hear it but if everyone did nothing, that is exactly what would get done. Make up your mind to DO SOMETHING today. I'm a diabetes dad.
dLife's Daily Living columnists are not all medical experts, but everyday people living with diabetes and sharing their personal experiences. While their method of diabetes management may work for them, everyone is different. Please consult with your diabetes care team to find out what will work best for you.
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