Finding Community in an Unexpectedly Obvious Place

It’s been three years and three months since I was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes, and I’m honestly still waiting to find my “new normal.”

The thing is, every second of every day, there are things that I can’t forget. My life depends on remembering them explicitly no matter what else is going on. Things like the precarious construction of the piece of technology that’s keeping me alive…the chemical makeup of my food that on the surface, tastes so good, but I know could kill me easily and soundlessly…the risk of making one small math mistake and descending, dizzy and shaking, into unconsciousness before I can even call for help.

You might imagine that this can feel pretty isolating.

Don’t get me wrong – my immediate friends and family have been amazing with support and help of all shapes and sizes. But there has still been something missing without a more cohesive group of people with which to share my experience. I’ve tried to get involved in local chapters of JDRF and ADA as well as smaller support organizations, but between a busy career, a long commute and a new puppy, I just couldn’t make it work.

All of this has changed – and in an unexpected way.

As a member of the “Nitro Gives” committee, I recently suggested this year’s JDRF One Walk in San Francisco as a company-wide project. I was joined by two other coworkers who have been directly impacted by this disease to lead the charge in getting the rest of the company involved.

Since we began spreading the word to our fellow employees about a month ago, we’ve had twenty people sign up to walk with us, and so far we have raised over $9,000 to fund diabetes research – and there’s still a month left until the Walk!

But more than the numbers, I am truly staggered by the outpouring of support and attention from my coworkers. They want to learn about this disease, how it impacts me and others, what’s being done to cure it, and how they can help. They approach me with questions and their own personal stories, and suddenly I no longer feel isolated.

You see, by trusting those around me with my story, I unwittingly discovered that the community I had sought was right in front of me all along.

This phenomenon does not need to be unique to my situation. I believe – based on observations and interactions – that we are all searching for more and better communities. The world has changed and continues to so quickly, we know we are hyperconnected, and yet we feel adrift. By necessity we all spend a lot of time with our fellow employees, both in person and virtually. Finding ways to relate to them in new and different ways can bring everyone closer together.

Cause-focused projects like the JDRF One Walk are a great way to do this. I won’t go into the multiple studies (like this one) that have found strong correlations between robust employee giving/volunteering programs and bottom line business gains. That’s not the point here. The point is that these charity initiatives push people outside their day-to-day comfort zones, leading them to learn new things about each other and the world. By applying skills, talent and strength to something that benefits others in the world, employees work better as a team and have more pride and excitement in their work and the company.

Of course, in my case, the charity project we’re doing at Nitro could literally help save my life one day. So there is that.

P.S. – If you’re feeling generous, you can donate to Nitro’s Walk Team here. You’ll also find links to learn more about JDRF’s work to find a cure for type 1 diabetes.

This post was originally published on LinkedIn. View it here.