On being on the other side of charity
Charity is huge in the United States. We've all seen it: the Save the Children, World Vision, or even the ASPCA commercials. You know, the commercials people usually mute because they're a total buzzkill. We see pictures of our friends all serving in third-world countries on Facebook probably daily.
As driven, financially privileged, able-bodied, and well-educated American millenials, our generation has become one that is very socially-conscious. (See: movie trailer for Believe Me.)
I love how our generation is becoming more outwardly focused and wanting to serve in different ways. The beauty of technology, the internet, and TV is now we have a completely different image of poverty and suffering instead of of just flipping through pages of an Encyclopedia Britannica.
And as far as charity goes, I've been there. As a daughter of a non-profit director, I spent a majority of my adolescence hanging out in the food pantry after school, helping with literacy classes, and distributing coats during the winter. And I loved it. I've mentored low-income students in the Lower East Side and went on mission trips to third-world countries. I'm not saying this by any means to add to my list of "good works" (Isaiah 64:6) or even knocking it-- what I'm saying is, I was always on the other side of "helping" people.
But, what happens when you're the one that's in desperate need of charity? After being diagnosed with two life-changing illnesses, Dystonia (2010) and Lyme Disease (2013), I was on the receiving end of what it felt like to be suffering and desperately needing someone to speak for me. It was bizarre.
For the first time in my life, I was on the other side of charity. I felt a new kind of empathy for the disabled, the poor, and the forgotten. I'm definitely not putting my type of suffering in the same category as theirs by any means. But, ultimately, much of human suffering is innately similar; we find ourselves in a place of extreme pain and suffering that is completely out of our control.
Then, I began to see the people that had come before me that were fighting for me and other patients. It's both a beautiful and humbling thing. Even though there is a still a very long way to go with both Dystonia and Lyme research, it's definitely a lot better off from where it used to be- because of these very people.
Proverbs 31:8 says: Speak up for those who can't speak for themselves, for the rights of all who need an advocate.
So, then, I made a promise. I made a promise to my friends with Lyme, with Dystonia, to myself, and even God that if I ever got better, even just a little bit, I'd do my part, too. So, that's what I'm now trying to do.
As painful as it is to share a story so deeply personal and painful to the public and even congressmen, my story is just a tidbit of what others are going through. So, even if it means sharing something painful, it will be spreading awareness, which ultimately leads to research & healing. Then, it's all the more beautiful. It's redeemed, that's what it is.
ps-- have you ever been a part of a cause to help advocate for people? do tell! i love to hear stories about those sorts of things.