When we think of our communities a few things pop into mind. The local coffee shops. The postal office and fire department. The grocery store down the street and our friends next door. These are people we see day in and day out and typically take some time to build the relationships that form our communities.
Communities can also show up in places where you least expect them. In the summer of 2016 I started my first internship with National Life. About a month in, I went to my doctor on a Friday and found out that I had a tumor. I had been sick before with the flu or a common cold, but I was not ready for this. It was a month before I turned 21, I was in my first apartment paying rent and looking to start my career as a young professional, and I had cancer.
I felt confused, alone, and uncertain of what to do. During the early tests, the doctors weren’t sure how bad it was, and I had to look back at my life and determine if I had done good. I’ll never forget the moment I was sitting in the hospital calling my dad not to tell him how my internship was going or what classes I was taking next semester, but that his kid has cancer.
The following weeks came with a lot of tests, questions, more tests, and a lot of uncertainty. They also came with a lot of surprises as well. When I came to work the following Monday, I sat down with my supervisor to let him know what was going on.
My supervisor was incredibly understanding. Everyone in the department gave me an overwhelming wave of support. These coworkers I had known for barely a month were offering rides to the hospital if needed and anything else I could possibly need. Friends and family from hundreds of miles away drove up to see me.
During that period of uncertainty, when I felt my most vulnerable and alone, I received the most support from family, friends and coworkers in my life. I witnessed a community come together to help me, and part of that community was National Life.
After removing the tumor and even more tests, my tumor markers dropped, and I had a quick recovery. I was very lucky and was able to continue my internship that summer.
In those few weeks, I learned a lot more than in any single semester of college. As a millennial, I had never given much thought to what would happen if my health deteriorated.
For the first time, I had to think about what my Dad would have to face if I wasn’t so lucky. What would happen to my student loans? What if this happened and I had dependents?
The value in having the peace of mind, knowing what would’ve happened if I wasn’t so lucky, quickly became very real. This concept wasn’t something I valued until I didn’t have it anymore. I may have just started my adult life, but that is the very reason to start preparing for the future now.
Since then, I’ve tried to pay it forward and be all in with supporting those around me, now as a full-time employee. I see people supporting each other throughout the company. I’m happy to say that these people are part of my community.
Next time you think of your community, you may be surprised to see how many people are truly in it. I know I was.