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The Power of People

14 Apr 2010, Posted by Jennifer Iannolo in non-food

In what has been one of the most trying weeks of my life, I’ve learned more about the goodness of people than I had ever hoped to find.

When I began to talk about my struggle with fibromyalgia last week, I did it in the hopes that someone out there might have a better method for dealing with it than the path I’ve taken, and I asked for help. What I got in return was a truckload of e-mails offering support, thanking me for putting a spotlight on the disease, and helpful suggestions for managing it from those in the trenches with me. What really blew me away, however, was that within hours, I had a doctor offering to help me and get to the root of what was happening with my body. We’re now working on it.

I was so excited, because what really hit home was the value of the relationships I’ve made through my food and philosophical meanderings. Turns out people were listening, after all.

Then this Monday morning, while I was out for a meeting, my apartment was robbed. The bastards took my laptop — the source of my livelihood — along with a precious family heirloom, and rifled through everything I own. Even my panty drawer. Worse, my mother was visiting this week, and narrowly missed walking in on them in the act.

Enraged and needing to vent , I took to Twitter and Facebook to let off some steam about what was happening.  And as my world was spinning off its axis, a sea of friends, family, and “strangers” were there to offer support, share in my anger and offer solutions to help me through one of my worst moments. Offers to borrow laptops came from all over the country.

I put the word “strangers” in quotes because for me, the people with whom I interact online — this means you — are not strangers to me. You are as real as if you were sitting next to me having a face-to-face conversation.

A stranger does not do what superhero Shea Levy did. Of his own volition, because he values me not only as an online face, but as a human being, he set up a donation fund to help me buy a new laptop. In two days he has raised more than $1200. So now instead of panicking, I am within reach of being able to purchase new equipment and get back to work.

There are not words to describe how it feels to be on the receiving end of such kindness. With the help of people like Chef Mark (from whose old PC I’m writing this), Diana Hsieh, Eric Zinn, my intrepid editorial assistant Madeline Shores and countless others, Shea and everyone participating has turned a moment of personal disaster into a poignant moment in which to witness human greatness.

For those who are naysayers of the value of social media — that it doesn’t achieve any results, and that it’s a pointless waste of time — I beg to differ.

Whatever the technology, it is nothing without a human being behind it to keep the system going. Twitter, Facebook and other online outlets are about PEOPLE. People who care, people who help a friend — or “stranger” — in need.

I am touched beyond measure that I’ve brought enough value to the lives of others that they’ve offered such help in my time of crisis. There have been many times over the past year when I almost threw in the towel, wondering why I was struggling to get my message out there, and whether anyone was listening. Whether it was all worth it.

Turns out the answer is yes. And so with your help I now have options I didn’t have two days ago, and can focus on getting back to work instead of focusing on what happened. That will be my repayment to you.

And for those naysayers of one philosopher named Ayn Rand, who is often vilified for seemingly promoting self-absorption and no concern for others, I’d like to point out that the first responders in this situation were those who share in my admiration of her ideas and philosophy. Those selfish, greedy people (and I mean this, in its proper definition) changed my life this week. They took action not out of pity, but because I and my work represent value to them in some form. That feels so much better than pity.

To every person who has donated, spread the word, offered to lend me equipment, hugs or anything else I need right now: Thank you. For being the kinds of human beings with whom it is a pleasure to share my passion and my life’s work. Without you, my life would be far less inspiring and fulfilling, and for that you have my unending gratitude.

  • Jennifer,

    I am preparing a drink for you… :)

    “I want to create a “sassfully delicious” drink for Jennifer Iannolo… Do you have any suggestions? Maybe I should make a Margarita with a twist?”

  • A few bucks thrown into the kitty to replace your laptop is nothing compared to what you give to your readers, fans, and friends *every single day* – don’t undervalue YOUR role in the friendships too. Hugs – @LynetteRadio

  • That’s a great story and one I can relate to, although what happened to me wasn’t quite so bad. Last year I was made redundant at work due to staff cutbacks and because I was a contractor I was given just one week’s notice. One week to find a new job.

    I was pretty distraught, panicky, and that was reflected in what I posted on Twitter. My friends and even people I didn’t know too well jumped in and helped by spreading the word that I was looking for work and connecting me with people.

    I had a new job before that one week was up.

    Absolutely blew me away.

    Thanks for sharing your story too!

  • Martin, I NEED one! Thank you!

    Lynette…Thank you so much for that.

    Nathaniel, I’m so glad you got the chance to experience that too. People rawk!

  • What a beautiful post, Jennifer. I’ve often heard it’s not about what happens to us in life, it’s what we make of it. And the story you’re choosing (yes) to tell is one of love and connection and good things coming out of adversity. A guy took up a donation for you? People all over the country are offering to loan you their laptops? You’ve found a doctor to help you get on the right path with your healing? How awesome is that?! I’m willing to bet that long after this is over, the fibromyalgia and the burglary will seem like small catalysts. And the rewards will feel huge. Thanks for such an inspiring lesson.

  • AJ Reilly

    Hi Jennifer, great post and glad I clicked on Chris Brogan’s tweet linking to this. I’m sorry to hear about your laptop and apartment and am truly inspired by the community around you who rallied to your cause.

    RE: your fibromyalgia, my mom is a physician who treats people with this disease, and, she has been having great success with improving her patients’ quality of life. I can put you in touch, or you can check out her company’s website: http://www.antiagingandvitality.com/ . Her company has a few locations in the country, but my mom is the Chief Medical Officer, and in my opinion, the best there is. :)

  • Chris Land

    Similar to what Ragnar said to Rearden: It’s not so much the money, it’s the principle it represents.

  • Jennifer,

    I can’t believe that I was so unplugged from the stream this week and did nit realize that any of this was going on until just now reading you post.

    I see that you were in good hands and I am thankful to see something so tragic turn into a valuable personal lesson that these relationships that we have online are extremely valuable.

    let me know if thee is anything I can do to help.

  • Thank you, Cliff. Thanks to everyone’s generosity, I’m within a few hundred dollars of being able to replace my equipment. They even took my iPhone dock and cord (really?), so if you have an extra you aren’t using that would be great!

  • Jennifer… you’re even closer now :)
    Love ya sister :)

  • I am a fellow Ayn Rand admirer and proponent of her philosophy: Objectivism. I’ve never heard of you prior to today. I’ll selfishly contribute to your new computer. I’m sorry you’re having such a bad time of it. I hope thongs start looking up for you.

    Regards,
    Dean Kriegel

  • Dean, thank you. They are looking up in the most amazing way — thanks to people like you. :)

    Kelly, I love you too. Thank you for always being on the other end of that lifeline. xoxo

  • Pat

    Of course we are listening! I might be half a world away but it’s almost like you are next door. We have to pitch in a few dollars so you can keep talking!

    Full marks to Shea for kicking things off.

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  • Wow……thank you for being transparent and THANK YOU for sharing this :)

  • Leesie

    Just wanted to let you know that I just came across this post about the robbery and wanted to help, so I made a donation. I hope it helps and will use it in whatever way you see fit. I appreciate your writing, your blog, and am especially touched most by your fibromyalgia posts recently. I’ve been having my own health issues like moderate osteoarthritis in both hips that causes me a lot of pain. I am taking Naproxen when I need it and thankfully it seems to be helping. There have been a lot of life changes over the last ten years, from both of my parents passing away to losing my beloved job — so reading your posts have been an inspiration to keep fighting and to keep moving ahead. Thanks, Jennifer! Warmly, Leesie @SeasLife on Twitter.

  • AJ, it’s because of people like you that I’m able to share such things. I’m so happy to know you and Melissa. :)

    Leesie, thank you so very much. I was able to order my laptop today, and can now replace some of the peripherals they took, so thank you for your generosity. I’m embarking on a whole new holistic regimen to get this disease in order, and by the gods I shall get it in order! Will share what’s working when I get my system (both digital and physical) situated. :)

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  • I am so glad I was procrastinating on Twitter this morning and came upon a link to your blog. I am so moved and touched by your writing. You’ve made me look at Twitter in a beautiful way. I wish you love, good writing karma and a shiny new laptop!
    Thank you for your moving post.

  • Thank you! :)