Human Nature will Never Fail to Surprise

PEACE: Sign in Fremont, Seattle, WA

And That's What It's All About

And That’s What It’s All About

Most obvious statement of the decade? The economy sucks.

We have all been affected by it in some way — whether we’ve lost job(s), taken pay cuts, or dealt with the stress of a pink slip hanging over your head as you watched your co-workers clean out their desks one-by-one.

But in the midst of all of our hard financial woes, something still burns inside of each of us. We have witnessed it many times. Easiest and most obvious example to relate to? 9/11. If only for a few hours, we all stood together. And I don’t mean in the patriotic sense. Sure we all heard the anthems, saw the flag until it no longer held meaning, and were saddened every time we lost a friend, brother, or community member who volunteered to ‘fight for freedom’, but the entire world screeched to a halt for a second. Any human with an ounce of a conscience stopped and reflected. Strangers smiled at each other and struck up conversations. Estranged parents and children picked up phones. Some people sat solitary, quietly mourning the atrocity of pure evil that was simply too difficult to even begin to comprehend. But one thing unified us all that day, if even for a brief subconscious moment. We all felt vulnerable, helpless, and inconsolable. We all wanted to do something to help.

9/11 is an extreme example that affected the entire world and changed the course of history, but we all experience things in our lives that have similar effects. We get a phone call. A father has cancer and suddenly we feel guilty for getting angry that we [insert trivial daily life episode here].

During Hurricane Katrina most of us had those same feelings. How could so many lives be lost on American soil? Where was FEMA? Why didn’t the government offer more protection? Our safe American cocoons that took so long to spin again in a post 9/11 society suddenly started to unravel.We slowed down again. Maybe this time we were a bit more numb and used to such large-scale heartbreak. Some gave blood, emptied closets to fill bag after bag of clothes for the victims, while others gave money. Some simply sat and had quiet moments of reflection in honor of the victims, while others swapped vacations in Europe to go to New Orleans and help rebuild. But one thing rang true once again — the majority of us wanted to do something to help.

Wayne Elsey, founder of Soles4Souls, Inc. had these same feelings, first after the tsunami struck Southeast Asia and next when he sat and watched the tragedy of Katrina unfold before his eyes. Although he had helped coordinate about a quarter of a million shoes be delivered to the victims of the tsunami, he felt compelled to keep helping those who faced such sudden tragedy. Through the help of some colleagues and the support of many, Wayne has helped send over a million pairs of shoes to the victims of Katrina. Seeing the impact of the efforts, Wayne started Soles4Souls, Inc. a year later. It has been growing stronger ever since.

When I decided to sign up to travel to Costa Rica with Soles4Souls, I did what I usually do when it comes to matters of the heart. I didn’t think twice. As I actually started to try to raise funds, while juggling my complicated work-fueled life, I became worried. How the hell I would get enough people to hand me money in a time of widespread financial crisis? There were factors working both for and against me. As an Art Director, I worked with teams of brilliant problem solvers at places like Microsoft and Razorfish. I had soaked up enough information about social strategy and using digital media for good. I knew I could apply those skills to help raise awareness and drive donations. I had (and still have) to put in a great deal of my money for things like the initial trip deposit, domestic RT air fare to Miami, as well as lodging, etc. I opened a second savings account early on and made sure I put aside enough weekly to at least cover payment milestones should donations not cut it. I figured I could buy some time at very least.

Then my life rapidly began to change. I went through two layoffs and began dealing with a series of unexplained illnesses. Over the span of three months, I went to 30 medical appointments. My symptoms ranged from debilitating fatigue and intense all-over pain to daily migraines and flu-like symptoms. After being tossed from specialist to specialist and eradicating scary diagnoses one-by-one (MS, lupus, cancer, rheumatoid arthritis, cancer again…), my docs finally settled on Fibromyalgia. Although skeptical, I swallowed the diagnosis and began treating the symptoms of this mysterious illness with vitamins, supplements, and a complete overhaul of lifestyle and diet. No more late nights. No more having “a couple of beers” to watch the game. No more dairy. No more gluten. And the worse part? All of my money and energy went to treating this disease so I could continue to live as normal of a life as possible. These changes were a hard pill to swallow for a woman whom, just six months earlier, was at the top of her game in digi-mobile-touch-dev-design media space. Hop a red-eye to Atlanta for a brainstorming session? Right. I was too tired to get up and drive down the street for gas.

This happened over the course of six months or so. I was doing okay, until recently I started feeling unbearably ill. Told it was the flu and I was going through a Fibro flare, I decided to finally listen to my gut and demand a Lyme test. I had acute Lyme once, while living in Massachusetts at the age of 25. My body has never been the same since. I went through shorter episodes of similar symptoms that I am having now. They are all the telltale symptoms of Chronic Lyme Disease, a much more serious disease that most of the medical community refuses to acknowledge as real. More on all this in what is sure to evolve as a new blog, Why did you become a doctor if you don’t want to help people?

My tests have come back positive. I am waiting for next steps, which are almost impossible to get as most doctors will not treat chronic Lyme due to its controversial nature.

So why bring this all up? We all suffer in some way or another. However, through it all, you came through. You not only came through for me, but for a small population of children in Costa Rica who suffer daily in ways unimaginable to any of us. Every time you made a donation, it warmed my heart and gave me the incentives I needed to push on. Amongst the generous donations of my close friends, there were donations from people I have never met, some that I haven’t seen since fourth grade, and some that I haven’t even heard from since high school.

Despite all the hardships we have experienced, you came through. And I cannot begin to explain to you what that means to me. Every time I place a new pair of shoes on the foot of a child, you will all be there in spirit. Know you made a difference. Know that you may have saved a life.

I am humbled and wish peace and good karma to you all.

More to follow soon…

Jamie Lynn Despres

To make a donation via PayPal to help defray my personal costs and/or to purchase additional goodies for the children, please click this button:

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