Letter from a Reader: An Unentitled Life

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A type 1 diabetic, 21 years old, pedals a bicycle for nine straight days, nine hundred miles from Tecumseh, Michigan, to Grand Island, Nebraska.

His insulin is cloudy when he arrives because it has been baking in a bag strapped to his bike. Yet the constant physical exertion has not allowed his blood glucose level to get out of control; in fact, he has been eating like a horse the entire trip just to keep enough sugar in his blood.

Okay, that was me, and I did it last summer. I was diagnosed when I was nineteen. Shortly thereafter, I saw my endocrinologist for the first time. He told me that he became a doctor in part to help people become "new-beings-in-the-world" after their diagnosis. I did not understand what he meant at first, but now I think I do. The disease awakened something inside me that I am glad I found.

I would not be alive without modern medicine. Before I had diabetes, I could afford to be selfish because I had every right to breathe, and be merry, and push through my existence along with everyone else. It was with that attitude that I lived my pre-diabetic life.

I suppose that what the disease has taken from me is a sense of entitlement. I own a body that relies on the work of many others so that it may continue to function. In that sense, my time is not my own. What better to do with that time than help as many people as I can? If I don't contribute to the world, I will feel as though I am taking more than I am giving.

Humankind cannot operate on the principle of taking more than we give. If we continue to try, the world will kick us out. In the same way, we cannot live with ourselves if we do not give of ourselves. Even if you do not rely on insulin or other medication to live, you do rely on something and on someone. In just the same way, someone relies on you.

Spend your life finding those who can rely on you, and then offering yourself to them. It is enough to invest in the people around you. When you do, the world will invest in you.

Jake Walters
Tecumseh, Michigan

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