Outreach is when you are "out"

…and you stretch forth your hand in friendship and fellowship.
…and you are not afraid to say, “I’ve been there,” “I know someone who…”, or “I understand”.
…when you are willing to consider the words of that poet somewhere near Regula, who suggested that the three most important words in any language are, “Let me help.”
…when you allow a single moment of note against your soul to spring forth the sympathetic chords and symphonies that put one human being in touch with another, or in touch with a community.
…when you play out the string of your existence in Service to the Divine, and feel its Holy Presence touch your soul.
…when you connect with someone, soul to soul, and know that you have performed that Service.

Anyone who’s followed me on TuDiabetes, Diabetic Rockstar, or Blogabetes for any length of time has seen me write time and again about outreach to other people with diabetes. It’s somewhat ironic, as I spent the first six or eight months after diagnosis keeping it quietly to myself – unless we have a relatively intimate relationship, my health issues are not, and should not, be of concern to you and yours. But as time progressed and people needed to know about the dietary changes, or noticed changes in weight and attitude and time spent running to doctors’ offices, that diabetic-supply-closet door grew awfully transparent. Even as it thinned, other people plastered with bumper stickers saying “role model” and “hero” and “success”. All I did was manage to stay alive!

When people see you as a role model, they entrust you with a certain amount of responsibility. You may not always be the best patient or pay the closest attention to everything, but you’re Somebody Who Knows Something, and people come to you for advice. Or they are Sent to you by some unknown force, the Deity behind the chaos that is daily life, for the dual purpose of guiding them to the “right” path and keeping you on that same, “proper” course. For many of us, that “correct path” includes walking alongside others who follow a similarly sugar-sensitive trail, finding strength in numbers when we are too scared and depressed to walk that path alone.

Mostly, we’re an amorphous group hiking along a well-trod pathway in the forest of conflicting medical research, populated by the demands of everyday life. Let’s face it – we couldn’t walk in formation if we tried! Then again, that leaves us the leaders and the outliers, the folk who blaze trails in new and parallel directions, reaching out helping hands of friendship to those who are struggling to find the path, or to find their way along the path, or to avoid being engulfed by the forest. When we take on the persona of the guide – whether as the leader of a group or the maverick who will travel outside the boundaries of the group – we trade the safety of the mass and the opacity of that closet door for the ability to help someone others along the way.

For me, the big events and group displays can be useful, but I’ve found most of my “rewards” in the one-on-one, unexpected encounters that pepper our everyday lives. An unexpected pair of lows (mine, his) at a restaurant tonight brought us into contact with a beautiful young woman whose close friend has had diabetes since grade school. At the cusp of womanhood, all the requirements of caring for diabetes conflict with all the desires of social life and all the concerns of parents trying to learn to let go.

We can help.

A word, a business card, a flyer, an explanation. Yes, there are people like your friend, and people like your father, and even people like your friend’s parents. We are here, we’re not afraid to listen, and we’re not afraid to talk. Here’s where to find us.

Outreach. Unexpected. Welcomed.

There’s no need to know my name,
If I’ve done any harm, then I’m to blame
If I’ve helped another, I’ve helped me
If I’ve opened up my eyes to see…

–On My Honor, a Girl Scout song