The Value of Giving (Part 2): Community – Love, Life and Legacy
December 22, 2015
By: Julie Szasz
“The beauty of opening yourself to others is to discover yourself through them.”
Community carries numerous values I’ve learned to reconnect with in the last few years. Community is like a family, but at least we get to choose it, or sometimes it chooses us!
I did not choose to have this illness, but I chose to involve myself in this extended family. I’ve opened myself up and allowed myself to be vulnerable with others who understand me and support me. This has allowed me to get back to being my true self, which means allowing myself to be in touch with the values that are imbedded in my core.
Giving and sharing are some of those core values that I have found helpful in this community. At a time when my self-purpose became questionable, I found myself sharing and giving to my peers; fulfilling a sense of love, acceptance and self-purpose. When you allow yourself to be faithful to your values and you are recognized and respected for it, you can experience self-validation, which is only possible in a community that shares the same values as you do. This is what I found in this community.
We become influential without even knowing it when we make ourselves vulnerable. Being vulnerable is not a weakness: it only means you are in touch with your inner self. And when you choose to be vulnerable in a community, it means you feel safe enough to be your true self. Community provides that safe environment to expose your own reality without judgement. This means you can express and share your thoughts and feelings on different matters, not only those that are cancer-related, which brings back a sense of normality and familiarity. Being part of a community means you have a valid role. It identifies you, rather than your illness identifying you. Sure, some might say that being part of a cancer community is like identifying with an illness. When your cancer is metastatic, it is part of you, but the community reassures you that it is not who you are.
Vulnerability, respect, choices, validation, purpose, giving, sharing: these are all part of love, and community makes you feel loved and allows you to love back.
Being afflicted with cancer raises a lot of questions: especially questions about purpose in life, and legacy. At an age when you are supposed to be building and living your life, what do you do when it stalls? Well, living becomes more important, and building is even more urgent in terms of the way we will leave a legacy. (I am not talking about surviving here. I am consciously choosing the word living, for my belief is that we understand life even better and are living it differently than others. We are not surviving, we are lifers!)
Being part of this community has showed me that legacy can simply be touching someone’s heart with the conversation you had, by the listening you did or by the hug you shared. Legacy is not only a piece of paper, material or money; it’s also how you made someone feel and how they feel about you when they remember you.
And so that is how I choose to live my life: surrounding myself with people who touch my heart and who I can have an impact on. Which brings me to how this community has touched my heart: friendships, old and new, validate my path, my voice. My community confirms that living life to its fullest is sharing it with others. Illness creates a lot of loneliness, but no one needs to be alone. We are fortunate to have this community that understands that. Without judgment, we can lean on each other and still laugh and continue LIVING even if there is no cure.
Community is what makes it all worthwhile; it gives us a purpose, validates our feelings and opens us to Love, Life and Legacy.
Happy Holidays everyone, and may you be surrounded by love and sharing within your families and your community!