When I was initially diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis, one image comes to mind immediately: our friends and neighbors. We lived in Wisconsin, and had a very nice home. However, it was built like so many homes in Wausau, Wisconsin ~ it didn’t have central air, even though it was a brand-new home.
Within a day of the news, our neighbors began making arrangements for me to have air conditioning until central air could be installed. Heat can bring on pseudo-symptoms that are just as debilitating as an actual exacerbation. Matthew and Kris Ziempke had window units installed in our home immediately. My husband traveled frequently, and they checked on me daily.
Friends from our church brought meals, took my children to church, to school, to every event they had been involved in so that their lives continued normally while I healed from my initial attack, and continued in their kindness towards us until we moved. I was in an accountability group, and each person was there to encourage me and stay with me during the day to ensure I was doing well and taken care of until I was back on my feet.
We moved several states away, and again found ourselves without any family nearby. Our children were still young. Piano lessons, school events, church activities continued.
We were amazed at how friendly people were towards us in a brand-new city. Again, new friends stepped up and filled in gaps when I experienced setbacks in my health. My husband continued in a new job that required frequent travel again. I could never count the number of meals that friends from our childrens’ school brought to us, and the miles they drove to ensure the continuity of plans that my children had ~ again.
We attended a mega church in the area, James River Assembly, and were surrounded by support from our church family who prayed for us, we had youth pastors who served as valuable mentors during a critical time in our childrens’ lives, and much more.
I continued in a role I had served in Wisconsin, teaching womens’ Bible studies. During one challenging time, I taught the book of Philippians for an entire semester from my power wheelchair. Each week, a good friend met me early to unload it, assist me in getting upstairs, and waited until we were finished to repeat the whole process. To put perspective to this generosity, my power chair weighs approximately 100 lbs before it is broken down and the batteries are removed.
We eventually needed to move to a handicap-accessible home. This proved far more challenging than expected. When we checked the MLS regularly for an accessible home, our home was always listed as having the most features of any home for sale. Again, friends came through for us. A couple told us of a home that had not been put on the market, but the owner was very interested in selling. Within a month, we had another story to tell.
We have moved to a new neighborhood and church, but friendships have been maintained and have only grown in numbers. Our next-door neighbors have brought a meal to me countless times. Taken me shopping at Christmas so I could purchase gifts of my own for family members. One exceptional friend and neighbor serves as my constant source of laughter, encouragement, encouragement, and frequent rides once I no longer had a valid driver’s license.
Some of my closest friends came from a Bible study we met at, and decided to continue to meet together once it was over. We call ourselves a Fight Club. Sometimes that means we fight over the last brownie! Sometimes it means we cry over each others’ struggles in life. We cheer each other on in their successes. We hold each other accountable. We laugh together ~ a lot. Four women getting along with no jealousy ~ and they said it couldn’t be done!
A few things link each of these friendships together:
- They aren’t based on my medical condition. It is a secondary factor, but we would be friends regardless.
- We have mutual respect for each other, and interest in each other’s lives. It isn’t all about me!
- We are committed to staying in touch, whether distances or difficulty in getting together affects our ability to see each other regularly.
- I care about their needs and concerns as much for the trials in their life as they do about mine. Life brings challenges to everyone. Some days it is tempting to put my own needs first, but any healthy relationship is about give and take. I have to give my best to each friendship, and realize that their challenges & concerns are every bit as important as mine. I have to listen, and not make it all about me.
These are just some of the heroes in my life. Who are some heroes in your life?
A hero is born among a hundred, a wise man is found among a thousand, but an accomplished one might not be found even among a hundred thousand men. ~ Plato