August 19


Widen Your Circle of Influence

By Sue Ingebretson

August 19, 2014

acts of kindness, circle, disability, Eroni Kumana, Fibromyalgia Awareness, Healing, health, help, illnesses, influence, JFK, kindness, reach, support, valor, volunteer, WWII

What impact could you have on the world if you didn’t speak English? Or, if you lived on a remote island with no internet, phone, running water, or even electricity? Could you influence the world with little to no reach? And, of course, fibromyalgia, ME/CFS, arthritis, migraines, and other illnesses limit your reach even further, right?


Most of us would say, yes.


Our diagnosis – or diagnoses (more than one) – can definitely affect our ability to serve others. But it doesn’t have to be the end of the story.


Take a look at Eroni Kumana. In 1943, he was one of two men who sacrificed personal safety to carry a forbidden message 35 miles across enemy territory in a small dugout canoe. As a native of the Solomon Islands in the Pacific, he likely had no idea of the message’s crucial importance. All he knew was this: The U.S. servicemen he’d helped to rescue needed HIS help.


Kumana’s act of valor would’ve had merit no matter who benefited from his actions. But, fortunately for the free world, his efforts rescued a man who would become the 35th President of the United States – John F. Kennedy.


Kumana died recently at the age of 93 (or 96 depending on the news source). His life was filled with fishing, boat making, and subsistence farming. More than anything, he was known to share his infectious smile.  


If asked in his 20s, he likely would’ve been the first to say that his future actions would have little impact on his community — much less the world. Yet, circumstances proved otherwise.


What circumstances surround you?


Here’s a statement I want you to keep in mind:


You are more than

the sum of

your illnesses.


Think that your actions can’t possibly benefit someone else because of your disability? Take a look at Angela who endured pain as she drove a bike 800 miles across Ireland to raise Fibromyalgia Awareness. (And, yes, she has fibromyalgia.)


But, don’t miss the point. Acts of valor don’t have to be worthy of the national news. In fact, acts of valor can be very uncomplicated. Bringing a simple smile to someone else’s lips has value beyond measure. Random acts of kindness spread goodwill, good health, and good relationships. 


To get you started, here are a few ideas of simple ways to widen your circle of influence.


  • Pray for others (and be gracious enough to accept prayer in return).


  • Volunteer for local churches, support groups, community centers, environmental causes, etc. where your help is needed. Sometimes, it’s as simple as making calls, folding newsletters, or stuffing envelopes.


  • Offer to take someone on an errand. Or pick up something they need as you run errands.


  • Call someone just to listen. They’ll be there when you need a listening ear, too.


  • Everyone likes mail. Drop a card, postcard, or even a small gift in the mail to someone to brighten his or her day.



Are you as fascinated by Kumana’s heroic actions as I am? To read more about the rescue of JFK, check out this BBC article.


Never underestimate the wide-reaching affects your actions can create. I’m sure you have much to say on the subject. Do you participate in random acts of kindness?  


Please share your ideas in the comments below!

  1. How do you impact someone else’s life when you can barely care for yourself??? I am on SSD and have a caregiver that comes in twice a week. My family refuses to help me because they see these commercials for Cymbalta and Lyrica stating take these drugs and get back to “normal.” Not to mention that they know people that have FM and they live a “normal” life. I have to question whether these people claiming to have FM really have FM or if they are just dealing with the normal aches and pains of a changing and aging body.
    “Yes,” you can transform “change from chronic illness to chronic wellness” IF you presume yourself ill when you are really just experiencing the changes with getting older. No one has the energy of a teenager unless they have the money and access to the anti-aging doctors of the movie stars.

    1. Hello Donna – thanks for sharing your thoughts and feelings here. I hope you’re able to widen your circle in whatever way that works for you. Even sharing your feelings (such as within this community) can help to widen your circle. I’m sure there are others out there who feel as you do.

  2. Dear Sue,

    I used to be an opera singer before I became chronically ill with Myalgic Encephalomyelitis. It caused much damage to my health. After being totally dysfunctional for many years, to my huge surprise and delight I’ve discovered the ability to express in rhymed poetry. I am certain this style of writing was strongly influenced by my singing, where many arias and art songs were rhymed (and set to glorious music, of course).
    Poetry writing, and later, composing melodies to my poems, has been the most healing and joyous activity ever since. I’ve never lost my love of performing, and I love sharing my ‘philosophies and humour in rhyme’ as I call my work. So I perform it for my Carers, friends, while I am paying bills on the phone, tradespeople who come to fix my toilet, people I meet on the bus, or train, taxi drivers – anyone who I feel will enjoy a dose of humour or serious thoughts. Many people have told me: ” You’ve made my day! I really needed a good laugh.” or would start a discussion on the issue I’ve written about. I like to entertain or make people think. And sometimes, I even inspired people to write poetry – for the first time in their lives. This is my contribution. But when I share my creativity – it is really a two way pleasure.

    1. Ariette — what a beautiful tribute to the creative spirit! I’m so glad you shared this beautiful story. It reminds us that we all have gifts to share and that we can be of service in ways we may not ever expect. Thanks again for pointing out that when we share what’s delightful to us, we all benefit.

  3. So VERY inspiring…!!! Prayers for others, volunteering & random acts of kindness are what keeps me going! If we get TOO wrapped up in our own stuff, it’s difficult to keep perspective & a positive outlook on life! Thanks for what YOU do, Sue!! 🙂

    1. Donna — thanks for your input here. Your view of how perspective shifts your world into positivity is absolutely true. Thanks so much for sharing that with us!

  4. Dear Sue,
    Even the smallest things can change someone’s day. A cheery smile, a heartfelt compliment, or even an attentive ear that really listens to someone else can help.
    As my fibromyalgia raged and my world shrank, it was so easy to be consumed by the horrid pains, fibro fog, irritable bowel syndrome and all of my other symptoms. When I did look beyond myself and really see and interact with those around me — be it other patients in the doctors’ waiting rooms, the receptionists or my physicians— my life was enriched.
    Now that I am well beyond my wildest dreams, I remember the days when I so desperately needed help and I try to be there for others — sharing a smile, a meal, a gentle hug or just listening. In all of these relationships I truly receive far more than I give.

    1. Janet – the perspective that you share here is much appreciated! It’s so wonderful to hear from people in this community who are at all different phases of their journey. Your info will go far to support and encourage others. Thanks again!

  5. I worked fulltime at a school doing a job I loved helping kids with special needs to learn.I have had fibro 5 years and RA 4 years so had to stop as I couldn’t walk/stand for long periods. I am now studying psychology so i can help people wiyh disabilities as I don’t think their is enough advice/ information for newly diagnosed people giving them control over their lives. The times I have to sit down can be spent studying.

    1. Jennie – I’m so glad to hear about your continued education! I’m sure your personal experiences will add to what you learn, and the rest of the fibromyalgia community will benefit.

  6. Thanks Sue for this inspiring and interesting post. I have learnt lately that everyone is at different places in their lives and can’t always have the same perspective as us (again). I live in constant pain but try to help others whenever I can. when I look back on the last 10 years I do not remember the pain but the things i did with others.
    Today i am visiting a sick friend who was in hospital for Christmas. I may not stay long and i may take store bought food rather than home cooked but at least I can visit. (as she lives near by.
    Wishing you a good year ahead

    1. Lee – your comments show a perfect example of what adapting to life with fibromyalgia is all about. I’m so glad you’ve shared your thoughts and experiences as that adds value to this community. It’s important to hear what others think. Again – thanks for sharing! (And, I’m sorry your friend was in the hospital for Christmas, but glad to hear you made it a priority to visit.)

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