Today begins another month-long attempt to make the world more aware of diabetes. I have no idea if Diabetes Awareness Month is successful in this goal or not. There’s still an awful growing epidemic out there. But I do know there’s a few hundred more people in Europe who know about diabetes.
My husband gives week-long business leadership workshops. At the end of his workshop everyone brings something that symbolizes leadership to them. The group of 20 or so executives share their stories of their leadership symbol over their last evening’s dinner.
My husband brings a syringe as his leadership symbol and talks about the leadership qualities he sees in me managing my diabetes. You can imagine the curiosity of these management executives when he pulls out a syringe. But the story doesn’t end with my counting carbs, walking an hour every day and frequent blood sugar checks. No, it actually begins there, because then he segues into a story our friend, Joe, a diabetes family therapist, told us.
Joe recalled a scene from a play he’d seen on Broadway some years after he’d gotten type 1 diabetes at the age of 8. James Earl Jones played a man servant to a young white boy in South Africa. They meet again after the boy has grown and James Earl Jones asks the boy, “Do you remember I used to take you down to the beach to fly your kite?” and the boy says, “Yes.” “Do you know why I did that?,” Jones asks. “No,” says the boy, to which Jones says, “Because I wanted to teach you no matter what happens in life to always look up.”
Joe tells this story to the families he works with who feel as though a truck has run them over having just discovered their child has diabetes. They clearly believe that they will never have a reason to look up again. But Joe tells them they will. They will learn to work with what has happened and re-create a life that will provide many reasons to look up for all of them. By time my husband has finished sharing this story, half his 20 executives are in tears. Several come up to him afterward and ask how I’m doing, but more importantly, they realize inspiring others to be their best is a key attribute of leadership.
I don’t care if you tell anyone anything about diabetes this month. But tell yourself you have reasons to look up, and then do it. Your living example will show others that diabetes is not the end of the world, it is the beginning of a new life where we can learn once again to value who we are, cherish what and who we love, find greater meaning and purpose in life and inspire those around us to look up.