When I hit my mid-20’s, after a long, confusing litany of medical tests, I was diagnosed with lupus. Aside from an anti-malarial medication, I was, for several months, on a high dosage of prednisone, the steroid. The doctor warned me that the medication could cause “moon face”, a puffiness of the face. For a single woman in her 20’s, that’s a cause for concern.
So daily, I checked the mirror to see if the moon face was coming. And I saw no change.
In the midst of my recovery, I flew a thousand miles away to the wedding of my best friend from college. At the reception, I sat next to a young man from school that had pursued me my senior year…and he didn’t recognize me. I had only been away for a year — I simply couldn’t imagine what was wrong with him. Until a sorority sister, who was a nursing student, told me my moon face would only be temporary.
Because I had been looking every day, I was oblivious to the slow change. But everyone at the wedding noticed more about me than I knew about myself.
Something similar happened to me last week. I was asked to attend a luncheon celebrating Women’s Equality Day and told that I would be an honoree as a female “political powerhouse”. The email was from a woman I’d never met, followed by a delightful phone call from another woman I had never met. I reminded both that I was no longer a mayor and that I was no more important than any other woman who tried to make a difference. “We hope you’ll be able to make it,” Hannah told me, and asked me to fill out a four-question survey online, which I did with some delay.
The day of the event, I hugged that Hannah in meeting her for the first time, wearing her bright red dress and knew immediately she was my friend. When the event began, I was announced as the first honoree and a young woman stood up to reach a poem Hannah had written…for me.
“Poem for Jill Swain
the work doesn’t stop
service doesn’t just end
when it is tied to your identity
something that you would do again and again
you don’t do it for a title
you don’t do it for the glory
you do it for your legacy
your history, your story
when you choose to serve
when giving is playing your part
therein you find your reward
therein is the expansion of your heart.
People don’t stop needing help
the growth of your city is vital
So you graciously do the work
With or without a title
And I walk into a room
Back straight, head held high
Wearing confidence like it’s my crown
As I see to work change and make an impression on lives
I am striving to make an impact
I am running at my own comfortable pace
To be remembered as someone who cared
As someone who never quit her race
I hope the message that I send
Is very loud and clear
I am standing in my purpose
Without anything to fear
Sending those around me Gratitude
humility is what I am made of
Ready to serve and change that surrounds me
With a heart wide open that is full of love.”
Hannah Hasan is a poet, a kindred spirit, a woman who saw me in a light that overwhelms me. She wrote unique poems for each of the honorees, coloring their pictures perfectly.
I have struggled to write this, because there is simply so much emotion and amazement to this. We can look in the mirror every day. We can see what we want to see. Or not see what is in front of us.
Sometimes, the best thing may simply be to exist as we are meant to be, to open our hearts and experience new friendships and love. Because those people, the ones who touch us in unexpected ways, may be the ones that teach us who truly is looking back when we’re looking in the mirror.
I am still just overwhelmed. What a gift, Hannah. Thank you.