A “Lump of Coal” …a Life Forever Changed

When we first meet somebody, we have no inkling just how much they may end up changing our life forever. It was the fall of 2001 when I met Joe for the first time during a job interview. At the time, I really needed a job after completing a one year post graduate residency program in pharmacy. During the interview, it became clear Joe was a very well-established pharmacist and businessman. Joe had a clear vision for a new innovative diabetes program. He was looking for a “less seasoned” pharmacist who could take the ball and run hard in developing this program. In many ways, I felt this was the ideal opportunity since I was looking for nontraditional pharmacy work that would allow me to utilize the unique skills learned during the residency and to not be tied to a desk all day.

Initially, I was skeptical of Joe’s opportunity since if something seems too good to be true – it probably isn’t true. Yet something seemed different about Joe. After accepting the job, I would learn over the next few years that Joe was different, he possessed a kind, calm, and selfless spirit who could see the best in everyone around him. Yet, he did not hold back in pushing towards a goal all the while inspiring others to join him…no intimidation, not brash.

I was caught off guard the first time that Joe said to me, “…you are a “lump of coal” and I am going to help you become a diamond…” To some extent, you could say I was a bit overconfident at that time, so I found these words harsh. However, as time went on, I realized how I was a “lump of coal” and had a whole lot to learn. I would say that I am still a ways off from becoming the “diamond” Joe envisioned, but I am sure to strive hard each day towards that end!

But back to Joe, he not only was an innovator, pharmacist, and an inspiration to others, Joe lived with Type 2 diabetes as did his wife, JoAnn. They understood the real day to day challenges of living with diabetes. There paths crossed with scores of people learning to live with Type 2 diabetes and Joe and JoAnn were there to educate, encourage, and to love on these individuals. Joe and JoAnn quietly made a difference in the lives of so many people.

So for those short 2.5 years, I was privileged to work with Joe as his apprentice in managing an employer site based diabetes wellness program which was part of a national diabetes self-management initiative. I not only facilitated training of pharmacist in diabetes management and how to be a diabetes coach, but I also worked directly as a diabetes coach providing ongoing support for individuals living with diabetes. My love of working with those living with diabetes and training colleagues in diabetes took deep roots in my soul during this timeworking alongside Joe.

Unfortunately, after no longer working with Joe directly, I lost contact with him for a few years. His investment and impact in my life never got lost! Recently, my heart hit the ground when I learned of Joe’s death a few weeks ago. My one regret is not having kept in better touch with him. My life has been forever transformed by Joe. And I will faithfully continue my journey to become the “diamond” that Joe imagined! As a footnote, Joe and JoAnn passed away within 32 hours of each other – what a life these two lived!

Who is the “Joe” in your life? Are you the “Joe” in someone else’s life?

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