Welcome back to another week of the Impact Initiative! I didn't realize it no longer is the weekend--we had such a lovely Father's Day, I was a bit in denial. But being able to share Kristy Dempsey's story with you today makes Monday Worth It. I love Kristy (virtually, natch), and am so glad to have her here today.
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One Random Act
I’ve always thought of myself as a fairly engaged person when it come to people’s needs. My husband and I live in Belo Horizonte, Brazil, the third largest city in one of the world’s most populous third-world countries, so we are no strangers to people in need. We teach our children to be responsive to people’s needs, we carry food in our car to give to people who ask for handouts and we give specific gifts when we hear about specific needs. But the truth is, I’m usually only responsive when people are asking for help. I don’t go looking for opportunities to help people, and this point was never made clearer to me than when my 41 year-old husband had a heart attack this past December.
We’d planned a six month sabbatical in the United States in the last half of 2009 and we were in Nashville, TN for a conference with the ministry my husband works for. He’d been feeling under the weather for a couple of weeks but had no idea anything serious was going on until late in the night on December 27. We were in a strange city and had no idea where to go, but thanks to our trusty GPS device we ended up at the closest hospital. Long story short (because the best part of this story is NOT the heart attack and subsequent catheterization and stent placement. Obviously.), my husband spent two days in the cardiac care unit and we were discharged to make our way back to SC and eventually back to Brazil. But first we needed to stop and buy his medication.
Did I mention that my husband works for a non-profit ministry? Did I mention that he raises all the financial support that the ministry receives? Did I mention that because we have to have insurance that covers us in Brazil, our insurance is [insert bad word here]. We have no prescription plan and that day in Nashville we were beginning to feel a little overwhelmed with all we would have to pay on the hospital bill and all the medication was going to cost us each month.
I left my husband in the car and walked into the local Walgreen’s because we couldn’t leave Nashville without his medicine. There was a woman waiting in line next to me who overheard me explain that my husband had just had a heart attack and that we needed to buy the least amount of his medication possible because we needed to research prices once we got back home. She heard me say his birth date and she mentioned her surprise that my husband was younger than she was. Then she looked me in the eye and said:
How are YOU doing?
No one had asked me how I was doing yet. I had no idea how I was doing until she asked, and I wasn’t doing well. I was scared and I was alone in a city I didn’t know and I feared the unknown, both emotionally and financially. Then she said something else really lovely, like she would keep us in her thoughts or something which I can’t even remember because I was boo-hooing, and then I went to find the enteric-coated aspirin.
When I returned to pick up my prescription, she was gone but the clerk informed me that she had paid for part of my bill. PAID FOR PART OF MY BILL! We had not talked about my financial situation. She had no idea what our financial needs were, but she wanted me to know I wasn’t alone, that someone cared, and that I would be okay.
And you know what? I am okay. Her gift made me want to make sure that others are okay too. And that, my friends, is what you call impact.
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Kristy Dempsey has lived in Belo Horizonte, Brazil since 1998 with her husband, Demps, and their three rambunctious children. Being a mother has taught her many things: how to live without taking naps or getting a full night’s sleep, how to keep writing when a bicycle/tricycle/ scooter race has begun around and round and round her, and mostly, how to share her chocolate. She is the author of Me With You (Philomel, 2009), illustrated by Christopher Denise, and Mini Racer, illustrated by Bridget Strevens-Marzo (coming from Bloomsbury in February 2011.)