A few days ago I had an amazing opportunity to give a speech at the Canadian Diabetes Symposium in Brantford, Ontario. The turnout was impressive: a ballroom bursting at its seams with over 600 people, many of them standing. The positive energy was truly contagious. People ranged in age from a newborn to senior citizens, but we were all there because we shared something in common: we are choosing to live our lives well with diabetes.
The symposium was filled with people who were passionate about wanting to a make a positive difference in their lives and in the lives of others who are living with diabetes. We swapped our personal stories and shared life lessons, finding refuge in the similarities of our experiences with diabetes. We all had so much in common, yet so much to learn from each other. There was lots of crying and lots of laughing, the kind of emotional reactions that I strongly believe can fuel change in a person’s life. I left the event 45 minutes after it was over because I was having such a wonderful time talking and connecting with other people.
Watch highlights from the evening.
When I was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes twelve years ago, it changed my life forever. I made a decision that I wasn’t going to just settle with having diabetes. I decided that I was going to live well with diabetes, and today I am always looking for passionate people who live well with their diabetes, and I try to learn how they do it.
The best place to find these kinds of people is through volunteer work for organizations like the Canadian Diabetes Association, American Diabetes Association, or the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation. These volunteer organizations and the people who participate in their events inspire me to strive to live a great life and to try to help other people living with diabetes do the same. Volunteering gives me the opportunity to meet unique, life-inspiring individuals whose invigorating enthusiasm and positive attitudes add value and meaning to my own life. I am so fortunate that volunteering has brought so many great people into my life and has allowed me the opportunity to form strong connections with so many of them.
Here are 3 lessons I learned from the symposium and my experiences with volunteering:
1. People make conscious choices when they want to change their lives. It was a gorgeous day in Brantford when I attended the symposium. The 600 attendees could have been doing any number of activities, but they chose to attend the event. They chose to surround themselves with like-minded people who are focused on living their lives well with diabetes. These individuals chose to be positive and proactive, and to learn and connect with each other.
2. Laughter is the best medicine. Although the event had its share of serious moments and tears, everyone was having a good time talking, celebrating their stories, smiling, and most of all- laughing. I have been to events that were all doom and gloom. The symposium was the opposite: everyone was feeling great and motivated to enjoy life. It is tremendously uplifting to gather with people who have the passion and the motivation to enjoy their lives to their fullest potential.
3. Making connections are important. When I volunteer and attend events with other people who are diabetic, I have the privilege of making immediate connections with individuals through our similar challenges and passion to make a difference. I make true connections with people who are passionately seeking to have a good life with diabetes, and this in turn makes my life better.