As I tried to think about the positive aspects of 2018 and how to categorize and convey them, I realized that for me, it wasn’t so much about great stuff that happened, but rather, the people whose lives and actions had the most profound impact on my life. It was really good to spend time thinking about these people who have been shining stars against a dark night sky. So here you have it: the 10 people who impacted my life the most in 2018.
This is not in order of importance, but mostly in order of when I met them or had the experience with them that stamped itself upon my mind:
I barely know Joe and do not even know his last name. We only ever had one or two conversations. But Joe was my neighbor at the apartment complex when I was back in California. I was making my amazing gluten-, dairy-, sugar-free pumpkin pie, and in the middle of the process, I realized I didn’t have baking powder. Since I’d met him once and he was a genuinely nice guy with no whiff of creepy, I thought I’d stop by to see if he had any. He didn’t, but when I got home after work the next day, there was a can of baking powder on my doorstep. The simple kindness of a stranger. So I left a card on his door for Christmas. He in turn left a card on my door for New Year’s. We never even saw each other again, but it was one of those situations where you meet someone who is genuinely kind and thoughtful to strangers. You never know how much little things can mean to someone. We tend to think that we have to do something huge to impact another person, but Joe showed that that’s not the case. More often than not, it just means choosing to take a little bit of time and a little bit of money and a little bit of “inconvenience” to bless someone else a lot by doing something really kind and unexpected.
Taylor and I have been friends for about 5 years now, and she’s a treasure who is really good at keeping up long-distance friendships. But how she most impacted me in 2018 was during the tailbone incident mentioned in the previous post. She was the one who took off work, got groceries, helped me with doctor appointments, and slept on an airbed in my living room and helped me until my dad flew in from Texas. She was there when I was completely unable to do anything for myself for three days and was so terrified. She is the friend that you want beside you in the trenches, and I am so honored that she would be friends with me. The story of Taylor shows that a large part of the time, impacting someone else has to do with presence. It’s about showing up and being there. The power of presence cannot be underestimated.
3. The Staff at Grace to You
In addition to Taylor, other colleagues at Grace to You impacted me with their service on my behalf during the tailbone incident. Jessica came with Taylor and me to appointments, she ran errands all over town, and she did all of that despite the fact that we hadn’t known each other for very long or very well. Cameron and John moved a mattress on a truck back and forth from Taylor’s to my place so that my dad would have somewhere to sleep when he arrived. And my wonderful boss Steve was, per usual, completely supportive and always caring just as much about my personal life as my professional life. Grace to You is an amazing place filled with amazing people, and I’m so thankful for my time there. And again, the recurrent theme here is presence and practical help. It’s great to tell people you’re praying for them. But if you live anywhere near them, they might rather have some practical help and have you be the ANSWER to their prayers, if you know what I mean.
4. Dr. Zieser
When I returned to Texas, I had a premonition about a month before the neurological incident that I should sign up to be a patient of Dr. Z. This was a bit of a sacrifice financially, but I was intrigued by the model of his practice where you pay a flat monthly fee for as much access to him as you need via text, phone, email, and in-person appointments. He’s a Christian, and he truly wants to help people, which is why he moved away from the prevailing medical model to this one, where he can spend unhurried time with his patients. And while he hasn’t been able to diagnose or “fix” anything, he’ll never know how much it means to me that he actually cares. He listens, he respects my medical knowledge and wishes, and he always does everything that he can to help without making my life harder by having to fight with my doctor. I feel better going to see him even if he can’t fix anything, because in a sense, I believe he DOES help my body and soul through his genuine care and compassion. If only every doctor had Dr. Z’s heart, I truly think that the medical world would be transformed for the better.
I had been interviewing for a job in June when the whole neurological incident went down. That put me in a really weird situation when I got offered the job. I wasn’t sure whether or not to tell them what was going on, but I was pretty sure that I just wasn’t going to be able to make it to the office in the morning because of the CFS, apart from whether or not I had MS. Problem was, I don’t have someone else providing for me, and I desperately needed a job to pay my bills, so I felt stuck between what seemed like doing what was best for me versus doing what was best for others. But I firmly believe that integrity demands honesty and seeking not to disadvantage others, even if that means that I get put in a really bad situation myself. Sometimes we are rewarded in this life for our integrity, and sometimes we’re not (e.g., Joseph landing in prison despite his integrity in the situation with Potiphar’s wife). You never know which way it’s going to work out for you, but true integrity knows that it doesn’t matter…what’s right is right. I knew there was no way they’d give me a deal to work from home in the morning and come into the office in the afternoon. I was SHOCKED when they did. This was primarily due to my boss Christina, who chose to see all of my strengths and the good things I had to offer instead of simply the fact that I can’t get my body to the office early in the morning. And during all these past months that I’ve gotten to know Christina, I’ve seen her to be an incredible woman. She is an amazing boss, and the more I learn about her story and everything she does for her family, I’m amazed by her courage, strength, compassion, and love. If only everyone could have a boss, and a friend, like her. She truly cares about her employees as people and is flexible and understanding when “life happens.” I love working for and with her. I really think she is Wonder Woman undercover, which I’ve told her on numerous occasions.
Quentin wanted to be anonymous in his impact. But Amazon blew his cover. After seeing the podiatrist and buying the boot and that not working out, I needed a knee scooter. But they are not cheap, and I’d already spent a lot at this point in the foot fiasco. I asked some people if they knew of any I could borrow and asked them to pray that I could find one. A few days later, a monster-sized Amazon box appeared on the doorstep with my name on it. Inside was a brand-new knee scooter. But I had no idea who sent it to me. I was, of course, blown away by this act of kindness and dying to know who it was so I could properly thank them. I thought it would remain a mystery. But when I went on Amazon to write a thank you card, it generated a template that said “Dear Quentin.” Ratted out by Amazon. A colleague of mine at work and a member of my team, I’d only known Quentin for two months when he so graciously bought and sent this incredible gift to me. Since we work together, I know he doesn’t make a ton of money either, so I imagine this was a sacrifice for him. I am amazed at the generosity of rare, special people like Quentin and know that one day, he’ll be richly rewarded.
7. Dr. Bearman and Richard
Dr. Bearman is a doctor in Los Angeles who specializes in medical cannabis, and Richard is a well known herbalist and teacher in New York. I’d become familiar with their work through two different health docuseries that I’d seen. And since I’ve had to learn to be my own medical advocate and take action, I got their information and sent personal emails to both of them. Dr. Bearman promptly, kindly, and thoroughly answered all of my questions regardless of the fact that I’m not one of his patients and wasn’t paying him anything. When I reached out to Richard, he told me his normal fee for a two hour consult with recommendations, but then he also said that he would accept any amount I can afford, and if I can’t pay anything, he’d do a consult with me anyways. As someone who’s been to many doctors who only take excessive amounts of money, offer no help at all, and just seem annoyed when I ask questions as they run out the door, these two men stood out as bright stars. Practitioners who truly want to help people and make that clear through their actions. I’m profoundly grateful for both of them, the important work they do, and the many people they help.
I met Yoojin at an event for working women at the church I’d been visiting since August. We only met briefly and didn’t talk to each other during the event. But a few days later, she emailed me out of the blue and asked if I wanted to get together. This is the kind of initiative that every single Christian needs to have for others, especially new people. I’m honestly not sure why so many people seem so blind to this reality, but I could see that Yoojin clearly “got” it. Within seconds of our meeting at a coffee shop, we were chatting away like old friends as we delved into some similar life circumstances we were both facing. And she’s been so faithful to text, hang out, and just be a true friend. She is beautiful inside and out. She has a husband and family, works as a nurse, and is dealing with her own mystery health issues that are difficult, yet she’s always making time to help and serve others. If everyone in the church were like her, it would absolutely blow the world away.
Sometimes you know pretty quickly when you’re going to be friends with someone. I met Kimberlee at the Saturday morning women’s Bible study that I went to this fall, and she was the group leader. We chatted a bit after my first time there and decided to get lunch the following week. We launched into our life stories at Panera, and I knew we would be friends because we share a particular trait (as do Yoojin and Susan): we are both super honest and transparent about ourselves and our lives. There aren’t any masks or “images” or trying to look and sound better than we are. We both just tell it like it is, and I love that about her. In a few short months, she’s become a treasured friend, and she’s someone that I can truly count on. I’m so glad we found each other in these North Dallas suburbs, both fish out of water in the culture but totally on the same page with each other. She really understands and lives out how to love others.
I also met Susan at the working women’s event, and we were in a discussion group together. I could tell by our discussion that she wasn’t one of those people to just plaster Bible verse platitudes over the painful realities of life, and I remember thinking, “I like this woman.” After the event, she reached out to me as well, and over the past two months, we’ve gotten to know each other as I’m going through my health issues and she’s just gone through an extensive and difficult ankle reconstruction surgery. Like Kimberlee and Yoojin, she’s been an example of what all believers should be about: actively taking initiative and reaching out to others to build relationships. Despite her vast professional accomplishments, she’s so humble and always ready to learn from others. I’m so thankful to have met her and for the ways that she’s been a flicker of light in the dark sky of this year.
If you have some time, I totally encourage you to think about the people who impacted you most in 2018 and why. Once you do that, reach out to them and let them know. They’ll never know unless you tell them, and I promise you it will encourage them.
And then, maybe take some more time to think about the ways that you might leave an impression on others’ lives in 2019. It really just boils down to looking outside yourself to others, trying to put yourself in their shoes, and remembering that Jesus wasn’t joking when He said, “Truly I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me” (Matthew 25:40).