So yesterday, I spent a great day with one of my Dudettes at her college freshman orientation.
Yes…I have an 18 year old.
No…I have NO IDEA how that happened.
Anyway, when everyone arrived, we all piled into the auditorium and the person running the orientation gave a wonderful 45 minute speech about the school, the day’s activities, etc.
When the topic of dining came up, she said the cafeteria has several completely gluten-free stations. I thought “How cool! We have come so far in such a short time that our disease is now being recognized by major universities across the country.”
And it is cool…very cool.
But then she followed it up with this gem: “Gluten-free is really popular these days. Some of us have to be gluten-free like me. I have celiac disease. But I cheat. I know I’m not supposed to but some of the other food is soooooo good.”
She had the opportunity to leave things as they were and instead she informed several thousand people in the audience that it was ok for celiacs to cheat. Not only that, but if the school thinks it’s ok for celiacs to cheat, how serious will they take their gluten-free stations? Will the food really be safe for celiacs? The whole thing just sucked.
Oh…and she was also 7 month’s pregnant.
I was totally bummed but what could I do? She seemed like a genuinely good person, she had her hands full running the orientation for the day and even if I could pull her aside at some point during the day, was it really the time and place to approach her about how important it is for us celiacs to advocate and educate properly?
I put it out of my mind, went about my day and for lunch ate my lukewarm, rock hard pasta that I packed for the 16 hour day away from home. Yummers!!
But low and behold, an opportunity eventually presented itself.
At the very end of the day, when most of the crowd had left and I was waiting for the Dudette, I saw my fellow celiac across the lobby packing up and EATING A KRISPY KREME. I simply had to approach her.
Here’s how the conversation went:
ME: (Approaching with a big smile on my face) “I gotta ask…I’m a fellow celiac…why are you eating a donut?”
Now at this point she could have reacted a number of ways. But note I did not come across with anger or resentment. My approach was more one of friendly concern.
HER: (Burying her hands in her face and smiling sheepishly) “I know, I know…please don’t hate me.”
That was it…the ice was broken and from there I was able to speak with her like the adult that I pretend to be.
ME: “You are doing so much damage to your body. And you have a baby on the way.”
HER: “I know…I have a 3 year old who has celiac too and we don’t ever allow her to go anywhere near gluten.”
ME: “Don’t you feel awful when you cheat?”
HER: “I do sometimes, but I take Gluten Cutter.”
(Dude note: I DETEST Gluten Cutter for this very reason.)
ME: “You know that product is not meant for celiacs? Please…try to take care of yourself. For your sake and your childrens. And if you could do me a big favor, don’t tell other people you cheat. It makes it that much more difficult for the rest of us celiacs.”
HER: “Absolutely. I’m sorry. I needed to hear this today. I know I should never cheat and I will definitely not tell others anymore. Thank you so much.”
And that was that. Instead of staying silent, I reached a bit out of my comfort zone and went over to help a fellow celiac see the light.
What’s my point? We ALL have this power.
We all have the power to educate at any given time.
It doesn’t mean we yell and scream and act like maniacs (unless of course we’re talking about Dr. Oz or Jimmy Kimmel).
It doesn’t mean we bore our friends to death with the details of our disease.
And it doesn’t mean we shun our fellow celiacs when we see them struggling.
It means we take a moment out of our day when the opportunity presents itself and we all play our part in raising celiac awareness in a positive manner.
There are a few strong voices in our community and that is awesome. But they don’t have the power of a million smaller voices.
Be that voice.
Oh…and just for the record…on the way out the door after our talk, her hands were full…and the donut was in her mouth.