Sunday, March 17, 2013

Community

Yesterday, I had the honor and pleasure of leading a discussion with Kerri at our local JDRF Expo entitled "Living Well with Type 1 Diabetes". The event was bustling with children and their families, many of whom I recognized from the outpatient clinic where I work. I expected it to be a fun and informative day -- one that would motivate or inspire those that were so new to the crazy game of diabetes. I wasn't counting on counting myself among them.
After our first session, several people approached the front of the room to ask questions or exchange pleasantries. I noticed an older, smiling woman waiting in the mix of them. She waited patiently while I finished up a conversation with a very nervous, newly-diagnosed family and then held out her hand and said, "I think I know who you are."
I shook her wrinkled hand, soft like paper, and smiled while I conducted a frantic brain-scan to locate the familiarity of her face or the name on her JDRF name tag, but it yielded zero results.
She smiled back and said with playful mystery, "You moved to Providence this past summer."
I nodded, figuring she was recalling that tidbit from the introduction of me provided prior to the presentation.
"I bet your husband also works at the local hospital," she continued.
I opened my mouth to speak but only shocked silence emerged. How did she know that?
"And I bet," she continued with a twinkle in her eye, "That you live on __ Street."
"How...who...how did you know that?" I stammered.
She smiled and paused for dramatic effect, "Nice to meet you! I am your neighbor!"

I was blown away! She went on to explain that she lived a few houses down, and that she had been so curious to see who had moved in. She heard through the grapevine that a young married couple had moved from Florida and they both worked at the hospital, and that one was training in Pediatric Endocrinology. She told me that she chose to sit in on the "Living Well with T1D" session and when I was introduced, she put two and two together!

I was amazed that our paths had not crossed on our street, but at a JDRF Expo! I asked her what her connection was to diabetes, and she straightened her stooped shoulders with pride before she said, "I have had Type 1 Diabetes for 60 years."
She blew me away again. Sixty years with diabetes. I couldn't even begin to fathom her life, her struggle, her perseverance.
"I'm not supposed to be here!" she quipped, and we both knew she wasn't talking about the JDRF event.

She shared old stories of the neighborhood and of her life with diabetes. It was touching and inspiring, and she filled me with the hope and motivation that I had been hoping to provide others that day. With misty eyes and a full heart, I shook her hand and promised that our paths would cross again.

She may not be the neighbor to borrow a cup of sugar from, but she sweetened my day in so many ways. Diabetes really does foster a beautiful community.