“Just don’t do nothing.” Over the 22-plus years since my daughter was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes as a toddler in 1992 (my son would also be diagnosed at age 13 in 2009), I have used this phrase countless times as I have lectured across the globe. It’s not to be confused with the phrase, “Do something.” Allow me to explain.

Many times people feel that “to do” something means to come up with some elaborate means to make a difference; they have to concoct some sort of grandiose event. In the time it takes to come up with one of these incredibly large ideas to make a difference in the world, many people lose the opportunity to do a whole lot of little things. But this whole lot of little things, when added up, becomes huge.

I have always been of the belief that if you had a hundred dollars and would not give ten, then if you had ten thousand dollars, you would not give a hundred. In other words, don’t wait around your whole life to do THAT BIG THING to change the world; instead, do a lot of little things and change one person’s entire world.

Last holiday season, I was in the post office. There was a woman there, and on her package I noticed the letters APO. In my neck of the woods, APO means Army Post Office. She was an older woman, and I asked her if the package was going to a relative in the military. She responded, “Yes, my grandson is in active duty, and I am hoping I get this there in time, I got a bit behind. I’ll see how expensive it is to send it there quicker. He has been there for over a year.”

I smiled at her. “Would you do me the honor of letting me pay for that package to thank you and your family for having a loved one serving our country?” The woman burst into tears and hugged me. There was much more to this story, but the point was, that “little” bit of not doing nothing had a huge impact on this woman’s life. Who knew?

In our diabetes world, many people have said to me that the effort we undertook to send diabetes supplies to thousands of people during Hurricane Katrina is something they could never duplicate. I always respond by saying that our success was the result of an incredible amount of people being in the right place at the right time. No one could plan for that kind of event. But you can hang a poster or two around town with the warning signs of diabetes. You can educate by giving a lecture in a school about diabetes. You can volunteer to call an elected official or two to set up an appointment to tell your story and explain why funding research for a cure is so important.

By doing little things, you prepare to take on the bigger challenges, and when a “big one” comes along, you will be ready. Almost no one who ever did anything “big” set out to do something big from the start; they just started to help.

When Barbara Singer and Gary Kleiman’s families set out to fund a research center, they never knew they would create one of the world’s leading centers to find a cure for diabetes with the Diabetes Research Institute at the University of Miami. They started by just not doing nothing. Days turned into years, and now they are a global powerhouse in the research arena. A little turns into a lot.

The same happens with the daily management of diabetes.

When your child is diagnosed, it’s like a wave crashing over the side of the boat. The amount you need to know seems overwhelming. But by just not doing nothing and instead starting to educate yourself, you will begin to learn. And you will help yourself more and more and more. The entire picture is TOO huge. So just start. Learn one thing. Learn one place you can go to learn more. Begin.

The world of diabetes changes so drastically and quickly. Dare I say that there have been more advancements in the last ten years than in the ninety before? The more you do and the more you learn, the more YOU WILL WANT to learn. Don’t make it a matter of how much you must do. Simply say to yourself, “I will just not do nothing.”

Before you know it, you will change the world. Even if it’s only the world of one child—yours. That could surely be enough … don’t you think?

I am a Diabetes Dad.

Disclaimer: The experiences and suggestions recounted in these articles are not intended as medical advice, and they are not necessarily the “typical” experiences of families with a child who has type 1 diabetes. These situations are unique to the families depicted. Families should check with their healthcare professionals regarding the treatment of type 1 diabetes and the frequency of blood glucose monitoring.

Related topics:
American Diabetes Month: 13 Ways to Get Involved Together
People in the Know: Giving Back
Paying It Forward

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