Tuesday, April 26, 2016

I'll Pay it Forward

The shock, immediate feeling of gratitude and feeling of an absolute need to pay it forward still hasn't passed, it never will. But today I made yet another nurse cry with this particular story, so I felt the need to share it with a bigger audience. I didn't want to in the beginning, because I know there are people in need all over the world. I know there are people who don't have even half of the support network that I do. I'm not a religious person, but the word blessed comes to mind; as does fortunate, lucky, and just plain privileged. And I am, I know that. But I mostly am because of the amazing people that I have in my life, and that's why I wanted to share this. Sometimes I feel a bit guilty for all the love and support I've gotten not just through this season of life, but through them all. I want other people to know that every small thing they do for good can end up being a part of something so huge in a person's life. Your acts of generosity can make a person feel the way that Max and I felt in early September.

I'll start with a recap of the situation. I was diagnosed with Leukemia after teaching my first day of 6th grade science, a brand new job to me, but a job in the school district I had grown up in. I was replacing a retiring teacher whom I had looked up to for years, and had just become a colleague to almost every teacher I had ever had. After finishing my first day of the school year, I had been told that I wasn't going to be able to teach this year. That broke my heart, but little did I know I would have the opportunity to continue teaching. Right now I want to teach you to keep your faith in humanity. People are innately good. Friends reading this, our 'old' teachers are good people. Parents, your children's teachers are good people. Students, your teachers are good people. Teachers, you are good people.

I had 11 sick days that I would get paid for while away at OHSU, and then I would be on leave without pay. We would lose our main source of income this year, because Max was student teaching. We would lose our insurance because I was the one getting paid to work full time. The only thing that could change that was how good the people we get to call colleagues are.

And boy are they good. A teacher's contract is something around 200 days. And my wonderful colleagues donated that many sick days to my account so that Max and I could still have a paycheck and insurance through this whole ordeal, and through the entire school year. If they hadn't done that we would have lost a huge (especially in our minds) amount of money, and we would already be hundreds of thousands of dollars in debt because of medical bills. To give you perspective, my last bag of chemo is priced at ten thousand dollars. If not for the wonderful people working in our schools, we would be bankrupt and 100 times more stressed that we are now. So teachers, thank you for our house, food, medical care, and our relative peace of mind. Some donated many sick days, others donated just one. But they all added up to make a huge difference in the lives of two people just trying to pay the bills. We owe you a lot.

You don't get this kind of treatment anywhere else in the world. People say that the place to be when you're sick is the big city so that you can get the best treatment, and I've done that when needed. But the more important kind of treatment is the way that people treat each other. I'm from a community that rallies behind its people through the highs and lows. I wouldn't rather live anywhere else in the world. I can't wait to get back to work next school year, so that I can start paying it forward. I owe this place everything I have, and everything that I am. I will pay it forward.

1 comment: