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Sue Giovino: We all have to power to change others’ lives

Never underestimate the power of your story. Seek opportunities to share it and change lives.

About a year ago, I read a story written by a student in the NeXt section of The News. She spoke of volunteering at St. Luke’s summer camp and how it had changed her life. Well, I grabbed the scissors, cut out that article and tucked it away.

This past summer, my daughter and her cousin volunteered at the camp. Many high school volunteers escort a great number of kids from the West Side of Buffalo all over the area. In the process, they bond and learn about each other’s lives. Gino Grasso is the amazing person who enables all of this to happen. Thank you to this student, who took the time to share her story. It was an amazing experience for these teens.

My daughter went on, a couple of weeks later, to serve at an orphanage in Africa for a month with more confidence. Her cousin is convinced that this kind of work is what she wants to do with her life. Without a doubt they will both be back again next summer.

November is “Give Honor to Caregivers” month. In the past few years, I’ve shared in this column my thoughts about taking care of my parents, as well as a Women’s Voices segment about my mother. The article about Mom was therapeutic, but it was also difficult to allow myself to be so vulnerable. Well, the response and results of this piece have shocked me, and it is still having repercussions.

Individuals came up to me and cried, saying how much it had touched them and even brought healing. I received phone calls and even letters. A professor at the University at Buffalo believes I would be a good candidate to facilitate Powerful Tools for Caregivers – a six-week course that focuses on the needs of caregivers. Since then, I’ve had the training and anticipate co-teaching the course in January.

Additionally, another individual interviewed me for a study being done at UB about how communication and care in late-stage illness influence well-being in bereavement. It made me realize that the care I gave to my parents has influenced my well-being in the mourning process. I have an incredible amount of peace, not because I did it perfectly – because I surely didn’t – but because I did the best job I could. I was able to share very candidly what it was like to care for and then usher my sweet Mom to her forever home in heaven.

I was just asked to speak at a women’s group about being a caregiver and how these people can be prayed for and served.

I have been in awe at how all of this has been birthed from one article. The response has so inspired me that I am seriously considering going back to school and getting a degree in aging.

The point being, we all have a story. We all have trials, adventures and experiences we have walked through that have impacted us. It doesn’t have to be a newspaper article. It can be shared with a friend over coffee. It’s about connecting with someone about something that stirred you to your core. It might allow you to inspire, to empathize or to just give a different perspective.

So the next time you have the opportunity, don’t hesitate. Speak it! Write it! Sing it! Paint it! Just express what has moved you deeply and the lessons you have learned. Rest assured, it will have an effect on someone. It will plant seeds and may even change a life or two.