People do crazy things at midlife. We all know someone. In college, I took a class called “Sleep and Dreaming” by a world renowned Professor named William Dement who said, “Dreams are real while they last, can we say more of life?” He said, we would remember that quote along with a historical side note that the Battle of Hastings was fought in 1066. Since I remember both, I must be aging well in midlife. I recently transitioned my practice to the University of Michigan and went to work with our National Eye Institute on a study to examine Ebola survivors in Liberia. Something about this epidemic touched me here in Michigan, in the US. Perhaps it was recognition of midlife–these “survivors” had looked death in the face, lost their closest friends and family to the same disease, lost their homes due to stigma, lost their jobs and now were living with constant pain and continued suffering. If that was not enough, they were going blind. My dream was to work in global health and make a difference.
Before I returned, my husband, the supportive engineer, said, “well you are living in one of the 12 saddest places on the earth”. I thought about the fact that everyone I met was kind and grateful. When they asked me about my day, they truly cared and waited for my response. When I arrived, the hospital had an African Santa Claus dressed in their lobby and everyone thought it was festive. When the day began, people prayed and asked for God’s blessing. When the day ended, the staff said, “Doc, thank you for a great day. Have a blessed and safe evening.” Hmm, saddest place on earth?
My friend, Augustine Wallace, pictured here is an optician with a dream. Before his mother died, she told him to pursue healthcare and help his country. A 14-year brutal civil war left this young man struggling but he survived and overcame. He volunteered. He sometimes worked to learn, often without pay. Sightsavers International ultimately trained him as an optician in neighboring Gambia. Every day while we saw patients together, this young man showed up early, working hard on his business plan to develop an optical shop. He is passionate about making glasses in his country so people can see to work and get an education. Passion is rare in life and his business plan can work if we obtain the equipment.
It only takes one person to make a dream come to life. Instead of buying that corvette or dream trip, how about starting an optical shop and changing hundreds if not thousands of peoples lives in one of the “saddest places on the earth”. Uncorrected vision loss is the number one cause of blindness globally. While in Liberia, I saw hundreds of people whose sight we could improve with glasses. Having a midlife crisis? We have just the vision for you.