Monday, June 23, 2014

Finding Our Tribes

Last week I was in Windsor for a few days volunteering at an Outrun Diabetes event. Sébastien Sasseville, a type 1 hero, left Newfoundland in February and has run all the way to Windsor.

His message is clear. It's not about the run. It's about what it symbolizes. It's about bringing everyone together and it's about the hope it gives people who have diabetes.

I drove to Windsor on Wednesday after work and arrived too late to meet up with anyone. So my first chance to meet anyone involved in the event was the Thursday morning breakfast meeting. We were instructed to be there at 8am. Everyone arrived within minutes of each other and, once all present and accounted for, we did round table introductions.

By the time we were halfway around the table I knew I was in for a great day.

Every once in a while, you find your tribe. A group of people who share something fundamental to your identity. I have a running tribe. I'm slowly developing a golf tribe.

As we went around the table, I discovered that I was about to spend the day with a group of people with whom I share not one but two fundamental links.

The first was diabetes. Probably half of the people at the table had type 1 diabetes. Everyone was proudly sporting their insulin pumps and were blood sugar testing, carb counting and bolusing with ease.

The second thing I shared with the team was a little more surprising because I hadn't expected it. Although in hindsight, I guess I should have.


More people at the table spoke French as their first language than spoke English!


Sébastien Sasseville is from Québec. He speaks English wonderfully and eloquently but he does so with a very obvious French accent. His sidekick (driver, detail guy) on the cross-Canada trek is a good friend of his who is also Canadien-français. The sidekick's father was also there as he had spent the last five weeks travelling with them. He was definitely français. Oh, and the videographer as well as the photographer were also Québéquois. Finally, one of the Animas reps spoke French like a champ. Add me to the list and there were 7 French-speakers there.

By the time the event started, I was able to appreciate how important events like this are. Those in attendance who had type 1 diabetes were given a green bracelet to wear. It seemed a little silly to me at first until I saw little kids wearing green bracelets spot adults, like me, wearing them. Until I saw them spot Sébastien wearing one. And George Canyon, Canadian country singer wearing one. And Lindsay, Guelph university student and pilot wearing one.

Those kids, many of them for the first time, found their tribe. They saw other people like them which, considering how invisible diabetes can feel sometimes, is huge. Parents saw other parents with kids who have T1. Siblings without type 1 saw other siblings without type 1.

For me, I felt immediate kinship when I heard the French accents. And again when I spotted the insulin pumps. For the kids, they felt it when they saw the green bracelets. It doesn't matter how it happens. It just matters that it does happen.

When you find your tribe, you realize how much you missed it, even if you had never found it before.

I think that's what Sébastien Sasseville's Outrun Diabetes project is all about. To bring people together through a common bond. One that, as negative as it can be sometimes, is also a pretty powerful motivation.

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