At times, it can be frustrating. You feel that spreading the word about a disease or a condition is going to make a difference and you try to educate at every opportunity. You pour your time and efforts into advocacy, hoping to see changes that will benefit those who you are fighting for. You have a passion and a belief that affects you directly and you use every means possible to put your soul out there for the world to see. And then, after a three minute segment from a TV personality that has now been seen on YouTube by over 2 million people, you feel beaten. Your confidence is tattered. Every step that you have taken moving forward seems worthless because the distance you need to go just got longer.
I just described what many in the gluten free community have experienced in the past couple of weeks. From late night TV to “unfounded” scientific reports diminishing the idea of sensitivities and intolerance, gluten free has taken a beating this month. And what doesn’t seem right about it is that it’s Celiac Awareness Month. During a time that we should be spreading the word and pressing for changes, we are busy picking up the pieces and doing damage control. Well, I’m happy to say that I’m here to change the momentum. Something happened recently with Cam that is as bright as any silver lining that you have ever seen. It shows us that what we do is not falling on deaf ears. It shows that what we do is being heard loud and clear.
This past Monday, Cam came home from school and, when asked how his day was, said that “something really cool” had happened. As I’ve mentioned in the past, this is surprising because usually I only get a one word response summarizing his eight hours away from home. He went on to describe an event that happened in his math class that day. From my understanding, his teacher’s birthday was the prior weekend and a couple of the girls in the class decided to bake the teacher cookies. Personally, this makes me feel bad as I have had some really great teachers in the past (especially in the 7th grade) and at the time the thought never crossed my mind to provide them with baked goods. The girls brought the cookies into the class for everyone to share. Cam has learned from school lunches, breakfasts and other functions to politely decline the food being offered to him to reduce his risk of being glutened. This time, he didn’t have to. The girls gave him two, individually-wrapped, gluten free cookies that they had purchased from Whole Foods and brought in just for him. They had made an effort to include him. I’m not sure if the teacher had any involvement in this or not and, frankly, it doesn’t matter either way. If she did, kudos to the teacher for listening to our concerns and looking out for our son. If not, good for those girls for thinking forward and showing compassion for Cam. It gives my wife and I hope that the dating years aren’t going to be as difficult as we think that they are. The cherry on top of this story is that due to the baked cookies being slightly overcooked, Cam ended up sharing his gluten free cookies with some of the class and it was determined that they tasted better than the ones with gluten.
So maybe there is more than just a silver lining here. Maybe this is a bright beacon of light shining on a community that needs it right now. Here’s an example of a younger generation understanding the needs of others and providing for it rather than making fun of it. Here’s an opportunity taken and a goal achieved in showing that gluten free food isn’t terrible and can be as good as, if not better, than your standard baked goods. It’s a “cool” story like this that helps us pick up our battered confidence, dust it off and continue to spread the word. For what we are doing is important and it’s working.