Of changes we have seen plenty. My writing here documents most of them, those both good and bad, welcomed and unwelcomed, short-lived and long. But the one change I haven’t written much about is the one I hope is most evident and feel most strongly affected by and that’s empathy and effort. Okay, that’s two, but bear with me here, because really what more is the first when not shared with the latter but a singular, self-contained feeling. Empathy alone is only fulfilling half its potential. The capacity to put yourself in someone else’s shoes works best when it results in some meaning action.
It used to be my idea of utopia was forty acres of land and a house smack dab in the middle of it. Cordoned off in such way from what I perceived was a complacent, self-interested society poles apart from where I stood, I could live with my family in relative peace and quiet, pursing that one thing I felt above all would bring us me the most joy: my privacy. Living, in other words, in complacency and with my self-interest.
How could this be? I was no different than those I was wanting to shield myself from. In fact I was worse because I had the gall to deny it. I had a job. I had money. I had things. I had a voice, and when things didn’t go my way, I got mad as hell and retreated to my corner. I also was very unhappy, though unhappiness in and of itself is easy to conceal. It’s hidden all the time through the food we eat, shopping, big houses. Maybe content is the better word.
I am not suggesting that diabetes changed all that. It certainly helped (when I was done being angry about it). But I believe it began sometime sooner, a slow chipping away, if you will, of my very un-empathic exterior by the loving, steady, compassionate and utterly amazing life force that is my wife. She has always had, from the moment I’ve known her, a champion’s perspective for those less fortunate. What Lia’s diagnosis added to her efforts was a new level of urgency. This was not some nameless, faceless person I had to put myself in the shoes of, this was my daughter.
Looking through her eyes, imaging her future, her relationships, her connectivity to the world, I see a world in much need of help, and I’m not speaking of a cure, of better treatment, or awareness. I’m speaking of the struggles people face everyday, some like her, who must evaluate the many aspects of daily life that the rest of us may take for granted and then filter them through an alien, unpreventable, unwarranted, and often invisible condition. And yet. And yet as she gets older and settles into the real Her, I see a young person who is ready, willing and able to put her own self in another’s shoes and share in the emotion of their experience. To better understand them and when possible offer help. Empathy in action, that’s the biggest and brightest change diabetes has delivered upon us me.