Last year, I was given an award by a well-known charity. The clear glass award was engraved with my name, and presented by a former Congressman in a ballroom just outside DC, in front of an audience full of doctors, lawyers, and philanthropists. The evening’s entertainer, a sweet young country singer straight from Nashville, shouted in excitement when I walked up to the podium. I was able to give a short speech.
But that’s not the award I’d save in a fire. It’s not the one that means the most.
The award that means the most to me is actually a medal. Well it’s actually a necklace. It’s silver-plated, and yes, it’s engraved. It was presented unceremoniously, via USPS. While I was told it was coming, the arrival date was a surprise and the medal itself was beautiful and much more expensive than the tinfoil and glitter glue “medal” I had envisioned.
Part of what makes this award special is what I had to go through to earn it. The medal is engraved, “Marking 20 years of successful living with Crohn’s disease!” The other, huge part of what makes this award special is who it’s from. This award is from a stranger.
Well, she’s not a stranger now, but at the time, I had never met Kerri Sparling and we were even Facebook friends. I was talking about health stuff on Twitter and some people with diabetes were mentioning their 10 or 25 year medals. “Wait, you guys get medals?” I asked. Turns out that yes, a pharmaceutical company gives out medals to people who have met milestones in their life with type 1 diabetes.
“Woah, I want a medal!” I said. And Kerri replied that I deserved one, and then she messaged me for my address. I knew she had a young child, so I was expecting a craft project type of medal. Her kindness really blew me away. She didn’t know me, but she was acknowledging a huge part of my life, and she was taking the extra step to put time and money into making me feel proud.
So when my medal arrived, I was stunned. It was a real necklace! It was such a beautiful gift, even without the back story that made it priceless.
My second favorite award looks very similar to the one described at the beginning of this post. It’s glass, engraved with a shooting star and personalized with my name.
But this award was given to me in a small, dingy meeting room at a hospital in Virginia. It was presented by my mom, in front of a handful of my friends with Crohn’s disease of ulcerative colitis.
This award is engraved “Leaving the House” and is for “20 years with a chronic illness.”
My mom, who is probably my biggest fan, had read my post “Too Many Inspiring Stories?” where I said:
One of my personal favorite accomplishments has been not becoming a shut in, despite severe illness and subsequent anxiety that has made that task a daily struggle for the past 9 years. No one is handing out trophies for “Leaving the House.”
I had the good fortune to be in the audience at an event where Susannah Fox described her experience of being a mom to a kid with food allergies. She explained how hard she has to work to prevent her son from being seriously ill, or dying, every single time he eats. She told the audience how it felt to be responsible for presenting over 1,000 adverse events in a single year, and yet no one really stopping to acknowledge this achievement.
I have kept Susannah’s words in my heart. I think she deserves an award like this. Millions of patients and parents deserve awards like this. We need to celebrate the dozens of small things we accomplish every day and have something to help sustain hope on those days when we grow weary.