I believe that no one functions alone, that we are all more interconnected than we would like to think. Each one of us brings more and takes more than we’re aware. From the sublime to the mundane, it is always a question of teamwork. In the sixteenth century, John Donne asserted that no one was an island. Today, Joan Chittister affirms that it is the gifts of the others on the team that make each of us look so good. Both of them are right. There are, of course, star players who get the lion’s share of attention, limelight, credit or blame. But of equal importance in my view, are those who labor in unsung, frequently unglamorous roles; their contributions are pivotal, however, and equally deserving of acclaim.
Seven years ago, I was diagnosed with an uncommon form of multiple sclerosis. I was young, healthy, vibrant and seemingly independent, working hard to fulfill my dream of building furniture for a living. Within a few months of my diagnosis, I went from a limp to forearm crutches. Today, my mobility is extremely limited and virtually all my activities require some form of assistance. At forty-one, I am dependent on others for my physical needs, but still, I bring something to the table for someone.
It is I who am writing this essay; however, the information on “This I Believe”, as well as the gift of pen and paper, came from my sister. The computer used to type my contribution came from a friend. All who know of this endeavor have been very supportive and encouraging. I am doing my part, they are doing theirs. No one does it alone. Whether it is the difficult diagnosis, or the ordinary grocery store experience, many people are involved. While I am the one who is actually afflicted by this disease, my family and friends are all affected by it. How relatives are affected by a disease is the genesis of the National MS Society. Sylvia Lawry’s brother had multiple sclerosis. She was seeking ideas and information. From her search, the National Multiple Sclerosis Society was born.
In 1994, Nicholas Green was mistakenly shot and killed while on vacation with his family in Italy. Some might argue that he was simply in the wrong place at the wrong time, that the bullet which ended his life was not meant for him. Perhaps. Nevertheless, despite being in the firm grip of grief and disbelief, Nicholas’ parents decided to donate his organs so others could know life and joy. That one unexpected and generous act has created countless ripples, large and small. It has come to be known as “The Nicholas Effect.”
We respond to each other’s elation and pain because our worlds are profoundly intertwined. There is a law of physics which states that every action has an equal and opposite reaction. Human action cannot always be measured; that there will be a reaction, good or bad, however, is a guarantee.
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