I’ve been undone by the story of writer Patti Digh and her husband, John, recently diagnosed with kidney cancer. Uninsured through an employer and unable to afford the exorbitant premiums of private health insurance, they faced not only the terrifying diagnosis itself, but also the mind numbing, gut wrenching question of how they could ever hope to afford treatment.
Patti posted, as always, openly about the scary road ahead, and the response has been nothing short of miraculous. Patti wrote:
… so many people have shared this, so many people we know and don’t know have given. People have made and sold their art for us. They have opened lemonade stands. And created Team Brilliant t-shirts. So many fairies and unicorns and love. It is such a sign of hope in a world of pain that we take care of each other, still.
Her unicorn reference isn’t just whimsical phrasing. Patti’s friends set up an Indiegogo page to raise funds for John’s treatment, and an anonymous donor known only as The Unicorn promised to give $25,000 as soon as the funding reached $50,000 (which it has).
Healthcare (or the lack of affordable healthcare) is an issue near and dear to my heart. Like Patti, I’m a writer without employer-sponsored health insurance. My husband and a handful of engineering wizards are trying to save the world with their start-up company, developing an alternative fuel technology. It’s noble, but for the foreseeable future, we’ll have to struggle under the considerable weight of our private health insurance premiums. Our coverage is honestly pretty crappy. A diagnosis like John’s would, even with insurance, be financially very, very scary.
And we’re the lucky ones – my family and Patti’s.
I’ve been so incredibly heartened by the community that has gathered together for Patti and John. They’re a living example of how love begets love. It’s really impossible to read Patti’s writing and not fall a little in love with her (and her family, since they are often the subjects of her stories and posts). Patti’s work is big, honest, funny, poignant. She shares her life with her tribe without pretense, without expectation. That they (and I count myself among them) would gather around her in this time of need makes perfect sense to me. This is where fearlessness and love connect. This is the intersection where magic happens.
I can’t help thinking about the people who get a diagnosis like John’s when they’re all alone, without health insurance, without resources.
I wish I lived in a world where what’s happening for Patti didn’t feel so unusual, so special and rare.
I wish it were commonplace to feel so supported.
I wish our everyday interactions reflected an appreciation for our connectedness, a willingness to be genuinely concerned for one another, a deep down desire to not only ease each other’s suffering, but share each other’s load.
I wish it happened on a much larger scale – this unleashing of wild creativity rooted in love and generosity.
I wish our default position was love.
Last month, The $100 Startup author, Chris Guillebeau, held his second annual World Domination Summit. At the end of the event, he gave each of his 1000 attendees an envelope filled with $100 and a challenge to start something good. He could have done so many different things with that money. Paid himself better. Paid his volunteers. Put it toward next year’s summit. He chose instead to invest it in people who want to positively impact the world.
When I heard that story I was stunned. When I watched the video of Chris announcing his plan, it gave me chills. There needs to be more people like that, I thought. And they need to hold public office, and vote, and teach children, and write books, and open animal shelters, and be doctors, and launch startups, and make art… and they need to band together in overlapping communities of purpose.
And then I thought, those people I’m imagining?