Let me tell you a story. A story about a woman. Let’s call her Ann.
She is about my age, in her forties. Like me, she has a grown son living at home. Unlike me, she is now single. She is clever, have had a good career and like me, she now has a disability. In her case she has multiple sclerosis, MS, and probably because of malnourishment, she now also has brittle bone disease.
Malnourishment? You may ask. But don’t you live in Denmark. A rich country famed for its social security, a so-called welfare state? Yes, I will answer, but things have changed. Especially for people like Ann, who need help. The hospitals and doctors are still free, the medicine is somewhat subsidized, but social security has become very limited.
Why am I telling you about Ann? Because the current topic of the World Pulse is transmitting change through social media. And this is a story of just about that.
The story must begin, when I met Ann. Met I say, but actually we have never met in person, only online. A couple of years ago I got a friend request from Ann. I often accept request from people such as Ann, as I am the vice-chair of the Danish Disability Movement and often use my Facebook to highlight my work and my opinion.
So, I accepted, but soon I wondered, if I should disconnect. She was so angry, this woman. She wrote bad things about the government and many others. Brandishing statements such as “idiots with power” or “the new world order is the enemy of humanity”.
Instead I stayed connected, wondering about her story, what made her so angry. Wanting to learn more.
I learned about her diseases. I learned that she lived alone with her son. I learned that she was so sick, that she should have been granted early retirement pension. I learned that she, as many others in Denmark, was denied this and instead survived on social security, trying to make ends meet on funds that barely covers her monthly costs of housing.
I learned, that many days, she and her son survived on one meal a day. Not beneficial when you are as sick as she is. I learned that every day was a struggle. Fighting with the authorities, to keep what little they had and to still strive for hope and that pension. I felt her fight, her suffering, her desperation.
But I also got to learn new networks of people supporting each other. People supporting each other in their fight for a decent treatment from the local government. And other groups, where you could find and give. Charity groups for those who had almost nothing, and still managed to give. Maybe a shirt you could do without, a decorative object. A group where they organize the bread donations from the local bakers and organize a friendship cupboard, where you can place some rice, onions or cans. Hygiene pads or shampoo. Help a little.
I saw this woman give away, what little she had. Mementos from her past live, with a job as an interior designer and a steady income. And I saw her from time to time appreciate what she was given. An almost new pair of summer sandals, someone had hardly used. A pair of jeans bought in the wrong size. Leftovers from supermarkets, food about to become too old to sell. How she carefully prepared and portioned the food. Stretched it out, so that the small provisions, might last.
I wish I could tell you a happy ending. That the hard times has ended for this woman and her son. That she got her early retirement, that her son started earning and supporting himself and his mother, that she had gotten control over her illnesses. But I would be lying. Ann’s application for early retirement was just rejected again, her health is still deteriorating, and she is angrier that ever.
So why is this a story about transmitting change through social media? Because, without social media, I would never have met Ann (or others like her). It has given me extra drive in the fight to change the current early retirement laws and we have just received recognition from the government, that the current laws and the local administration of the laws is too tight. Without the social media Ann, would not receive the help, which has made it possible for her to survive and she would not be able to help others, with what little she had. And without social media, I would probably have given up my fight as well. Ann (and many others) reads many of my Facebook posts, shares some of them and writes small encouraging comments. And World Pulse offers even stronger support.
This story is about change. Not about change in the political sense. Not about immediate solutions. But change of a much grander scale. This is about change, that moves our hearts. Change, where our eyes open and we reach out to our sisters. Change, where we feel the support through the social media. And this is the transformation, which changes the world. Which changes our lives.