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Saturday, January 10, 2009

I am an Ambassador!

Yesterday was an exasperating day at work—one of those days when Murphy’s Law was king and lord of my office. Phone interruptions broke my concentration and had begun to really annoy me. It seems everybody has a problem and dog-gone-it I had enough of my own!

When one more call came in, I forced my voice to a calmness I no longer felt. This call, instead of adding to my angst, lifted my spirits. Ashley Burden from the Mid-Missouri Chapter called to ask me if I would be an Alzheimer’s Association Ambassador for Pettis County.

“Sure,” I said. “What will I be doing? Do I need to know a foreign language?”

“No foreign language required. And you will pretty much be doing what you already do,” she said. “As ambassador, you will speak to civic organizations—you know, give the fifteen minute spiel on the services provided by the Chapter.”

“I know a lot of fifteen minute spiels,” I admitted. I learned the fifteen minute spiels years ago when I was Memory Walk Coordinator and I haven’t shut up since.

During the course of our conversation, Ashley also told me about a new program called LEARN to address early stage problems. This exciting program funded by a Missouri Grant will provide additional guidance for a family when their loved one is first diagnosed. Additional respite funds are available through this program. I know from personal experience how important respite is for the primary caregiver.

Then, we shifted gears to the March 23-25 Public Policy Forum. This year marks my ninth consecutive Forum! I’m still as excited about going as I was the first time. My sister is going with me this year and we plan to spend some quality time in our nation’s capitol. The Chapter wants to send a person in the early stages and his or her caregiver to Washington, DC. I promised Ashley that I would think about possible candidates from our area.

Ashley got another phone call and had to hang up. I looked at the pile of papers on my desk: month end/year end reports with issues. Numbers buzzed through my brain relentlessly working on this brain-teasing puzzle. A one page report that should have taken less than ten minutes to verify had turned into a full day quest for answers. Our conversation had been short—less than five minutes, but it brightened my day and reminded me that the most important things in my life were not on my desk. I had let work problems fill my mind with anxiety.

More important that comparing spreadsheets to printouts are Girl Scout cookies, basketball games, math club, and baby smiles. Important things are editing my book and submitting it to an agent. Now, an important thing is taking my Alzheimer’s volunteerism to the Ambassador level.

My Oxford American Dictionary shows one definition of ambassador as “an official messenger.” I have been a messenger for the Alzheimer’s Association since my first contact with them before we had a diagnosis for Jim. Soon, I will be “official” but that won’t make me stodgy. Being an Alzheimer’s Volunteer for me is not something I do just because I want to; it’s something I am compelled to do.
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