I don’t always enjoy stories about triumph over adversity. Not that I have anything against giving adversity a swift kick in the butt when it’s called for. But when the story’s main character has a disability, the adversity is all too often portrayed as a life of sheer hell suffused with suffering. And the triumph is interpreted by the fact of this person’s simply getting on with his or her life. Real life isn’t so monochromatic.
Having said that, here’s a triumph story I can get on board with. American newlywed Cami Walker was diagnosed with rapidly progressing multiple sclerosis. She was in pain and depressed and her marriage was strained, so she use her phone-a-friend lifeline. She was looking for sympathy but her friend, an African medicine woman who’d often counselled Cami, turned the tables on her. “You’re feeding the disease,” she told her bluntly. And then she gave her a sort of prescription: Cami was to give away 29 gifts in 29 days.
Cami was doubtful but did it, and she says it changed her perspective. The gifts weren’t Swarovski crystals or Louie Vuitton bags – one day it was just a tissue as she consoled a weeping friend. But each of these gifts pulled her out of herself. She says it gave her a sense of purpose. And she started to feel good. Now comes the moment any media outlet has gotta love: On day 16, Cami suddenly realized she’d been walking around without her cane for two days.
It may sound like a miracle, but science backs up her story. Good deeds and giving can help our health and extend our lives. Cami’s MS hasn’t disappeared. But these days, she’s feeling better and more energized. Turns out she was given the perfect prescription.
Want to learn more? Her book, 29 Gifts: How a Month of Giving Can Change Your Life, was a New York Times bestseller. And she’s taken the challenge online: Anyone, anywhere, can sign up to give 29 gifts in 29 days. Already, more than 13,000 people around the world have signed up to be givers.
Whether it’s 50 good deeds or 29 gifts, these acts can help each of us walk away from our own metaphorical canes. Plus it’s good for the whole wide world.