Tinder match? Match.com? Is this about dating again?
Nope. This is actually about saving lives.
Strap on your ferry-boat scrub caps, people. We’re diving deep today.
Many of life’s big problems – the real ones – are worthy causes for taking up a torch. Whether life-threatening diseases, like AIDS & HIV, or ones that make the people you love disappear in front of your eyes, like Alzheimer’s, or more common ones we shy away from talking about, like depression and suicide, there’s a group in support of, people to confide in, and organizations gathering funds in the fight against.
My cause involves Little Humans and Cancer. I joined University of Iowa’s Dance Marathon junior year of college, and I fell in love. I held positions of leadership, I watched kids get better, and I heard stories of kiddos who did not. And then my younger cousin was diagnosed, battled, and overcame, thanks to a donor.
I wanted to do more. I always did, but I felt inspired in a much different way. A small act of kindness saved the life of someone I knew. So I had my cheek swabbed, my DNA wrapped up in a cotton ball held in a massive database. And I waited.
Giving more time, whether days, months, or decades, feels incredible. It takes so little to give so much (in my case, probably half a gallon of fluids). I was better in a week. My recipient’s journey took more time, far less linearly. Ultimately, it didn’t stick. Time, for him, ran out.
The Big Event is days away. Thousands of UI students will take part in the 24-hour dance party, where there’s no sitting, no sleeping, and no caffeine. They’ll hear stories of amazing recovery, grueling battles, and incredible loss. They’ll feel exhaustion and pain, joy and sorrow, they will want to stop, sit, sleep, and they will go on anyway.
The first time I experienced this rollercoaster ride of emotions, I was a different person. I was nearing the end of a long relationship wrought with the tough lessons that come with a first serious boyfriend. I didn’t know it then, but a week later, I would walk away.
I was shy. I didn’t know how to turn strangers into friends. The Big Event had 2000+ attendees, and I didn’t know a single one of them. I was going to spend 24 hours there, afraid I’d feel alone amidst a sea of people.
I was wrong. I made friends quickly, bonding over little else than needing each other. We were all first-year dancers. We didn’t know what to expect of the 24 hours ahead. I shuffled out of that ballroom the next night, emotions ransacked. But I felt different, somehow – newer, the way the air smells after a big rain in the summer.
A month later, newly out of a long relationship, I faced life in a city I’d resided for 3 years with few social connections and no idea what to do. I had nothing to lose. I applied for a leadership position with Dance Marathon, expecting nothing. And then… I was a Morale Captain: a committee acting as the “face” of the organization.
Morale Captain meant turning strangers into friends, embarrassing myself all over campus, and trying to convince students to be pumped about the “people in lime.” It challenged me, grew me, forced me face-first into an opportunity to overcome long-standing social anxiety. My performance was clumsy. I stumbled often. I felt awkward and silly, and I never felt like I was doing my job that well. But I cared. A lot. The execution wasn’t flawless, but the heart was there.
The point is you don’t have to give a lot. You don’t have to be the best or offer the most.
Give what you can when you can, to life, to love, to whatever fills your heart chambers with all the good feels. Give to your friends by being supportive, loving, providing a safe place for them to confide. Give to random strangers by smiling and saying hello. Give to someone you see struggling by offering help. Giving has exponential power. It grows rapidly in ways you can’t accurately predict.
The Big Event will be here soon. I’ll be participating as an alumnus, reuniting with best friends I wouldn’t have without the embarrassment, without going out on a limb, without doing something scary.
Tune in to www.dancemarathon.org February 3 at 7 pm to see what I mean courtesy of the 24-hour live-stream. You’ll be awed. If you catch a family speaker (top of the hour nearly every hour), you’ll cry. You might catch a glimpse of the magic that changes so much in the lives of many.
Just Donate It, people. Your time, your funds, your compassion. It’s a beautiful day to save lives (and swab cheeks).