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.