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I don’t need sympathy, just cooperation

I’m back in ND at SIL-UND. It’s the program done by SIL (Summer Institute of Linguistics) through UND. Coming here again after nearly dying last year takes a lot of courage at times. I’m an online student during the year, but in the summer I come here to be an on-campus student for 2 months. The “SIL community” is rather unique here. Because there are parents who come to take classes here, they usually come with their family… teens, kids and babies included. And due to some other things I’ve ended up with my room in the kid’s wing. While this means I get AC and am closer to classes (especially nice as I’m in a walking boot/cast for a few more weeks because of a stress fracture), I do hear babies crying at random times of day and night. But I’m ok with that.

Another thing about the SIL community is that total students, faculty and family total is around 200. We take up about 2 dorms. And we do eat in one of the main cafeterias. But more on that later. Knowing that I’m in such a close-knit community I’ve been trying to do everything I can to set plans in place and alert the right people and teach the right people how to use my EpiPens and when. So I had a talk with the director about how to do this best. Should we mention the fact I’m deathly allergic to milk and peanuts in the orientation meeting before registration? Or some other method.

We decided that the best way was a combination of 3 ways. First in the first chapel meeting to reach a good portion of the “SIL community”. Second in the newsletter that goes out this week. And third, by posting signs around key areas of the dorm that are public and are where people tend to eat food while studying. And while a good portion of keeping myself safe is MY responsibility, there are things that others can do to help and make this summer a safer one for me.

As I was talking with the director, I forget who of us said it, but it basically the phrase that has stuck in both of our heads is,

I don’t need sympathy, just cooperation.

Too many times when I tell people about my allergies and they say something to the effect “oh, I’m so sorry! That must be horrible!” I get that you feel bad for me. But really, that’s not accomplishing anything really helpful! What I need is for you to clean up after you eat peanuts or a PB&J sandwich or after you go snacking on a cheese stick that you’ve had fun “stringing” as you ate it, or even your sandwich that had cheese in it that you put on the table next to you between bites as you worked on your homework.

Oh yeah, and professors, this also applies to you. Please don’t go eating or snacking while grading my homework… especially not as you’re eating peanuts or cheese.

So this morning in chapel, the director talked about some stuff and the challenges of living in community and tied my food allergies in. People were listening, but I think when he said, “she almost died last summer”, they got it a whole lot better.

Then, at lunch I’m sitting with some other SIL students and one of them is a childcare worker and she was talking about an idea she had for a food prep activity for the kids to do. ”
Oh, what’s it called…. ants on a log!”
“oh yeah, celery, with peanut butter and raisins!” I said.
Then her husband says “oh but wait, we can’t use peanut butter. There’s someone who’s allergic to it.”
Curious as to not having heard of a kid here with the same allergy as myself I asked what kid was allergic to peanuts.
“oh, no, it’s not a kid,” her husband replied, “they just said this morning that there’s someone here on campus who’s allergic to peanuts.”
“oh, that’d be me!”
“ooh! I’m sorry!!”
That’s ok. But thank you for your cooperation! I never even asked you to NOT use peanut products, but you decided you weren’t going to use peanuts in your kids snacks just because it was asked in chapel this morning (for those who go to chapel) that if you do eat peanuts, please be considerate and clean up after yourself.

It’s looking like a great start to the summer. 🙂 I’m working on getting all the necessary contacts in case of emergency that someone would be able to come to the ER with me (who has a car so I could get back to campus afterwards) in case of a reaction. And then training all my profs and TAs and close friends (and other random new friends) how to save my life with the EpiPen. And I’ll share how the dining hall has been making amazing improvements and is just totally awesome in another post. But for now, just remember:

I don’t need sympathy, just cooperation.

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