Thursday, October 14, 2010

The Strength of Community

Workplace giving and Community Shares are rooted in the concept that we are stronger together than we are alone. I want to share a story with you about how I embraced that idea and how my renewed understanding of what community means changed the course of my life very literally.

At 4pm on Thursday, January 22, 2009 I suffered a seizure while driving northbound on I-25 on my way home from work to Fort Collins. I don't remember much about the incident, just the flashing lights and gridlocked traffic as the firemen pulled me out of the driver's seat. The 8 other vanpoolers who were accompanying me that day walked away unharmed and their quick wits and sharp reactions are the reason I'm still here.

The situation would continue to escalate after I was immediately taken to North Suburban Medical Center and told that I had a brain tumor. For the next few months a dark cloud of uncertain urgency descended over my family. It was the most difficult period of my life. I have climbed mountains all over the world and been in scary spots before but at 29 years old, and in the best shape of my life, this particular challenge was one I never saw coming.

I think that for anyone who faces great uncertainty there is the moment when you ask yourself, "How am I going to get through this?"

And at that moment of doubt support started to pour in from places I never expected. The Community Shares family came to the rescue. My coworkers rallied around me with t-shirts, buttons, and inspiration to form the J Karma Army. Karma is the spiritual belief that by giving back to others we can become stronger, better people.

Mindy Davidson from Project Angel Heart personally drove a care package to me and my wife in Fort Collins so we wouldn't have to worry about cooking. Members sent cards, called, and offered support in every imaginable way. Two miniature dachshunds were welcomed into our home in the spring and we smiled and laughed for the first time in months.

No single person could provide enough strength to get me through that experience, but together we became mighty. Looking into the eye of that storm I realized for the first time in my life how much stronger we become when we join together instead of going it alone. I am and have always been fiercely independent. My favorite saying as a young child was, "You're not the boss of my body." My parents remind me of this with a chuckle and a wink.

It is both humbling and inspiring to me that I needed to be on the receiving end to understand just how valuable giving truly is.

It's been twenty-one months since my experience began. I have completed a round of chemo, my wife and I are expecting our first baby, and I have returned to climbing and photographing the grandness of Colorado's mountains. My work at Community Shares is a daily reminder that life can change at any moment. I've seen what it is to give and receive when you need it most.