He’d planned to shoot just a few baskets but when Jim came by the few had lengthened to a good half-hour workout. As he popped a couple of candies into his mouth, Jim asked, “Aren’t you going to share?”
“Oh, sure. Sorry.” Kurt held out the package for Jim. Sometimes he forgot the simple courtesies. Now would be the perfect time to tell Jim about his insulin reactions but somehow the words just wouldn’t come. Hey, Jim, in case I start acting goofy sometime, would you be a friend and tell me to eat some candy or take a glucose tablet? See, I have this dumb disease that when I get too much exercise or don’t eat enough lunch or just get tense, my blood sugar takes a nosedive and I need something to eat right away.
No, that wasn’t cool. And if he couldn’t discuss it with Jim, he sure didn’t want to talk about it with the others—especially someone like Stephanie. He’d walked her home from church last week and he liked her a lot. He didn’t want her to think of him as some kind of freak.
Kurt had been just fine all his life, right up till last August. Then it
seemed like he was thirsty all the time, so tired he fell asleep watching the six o’clock
news, and when he got on the scales, he saw that he’d lost seven pounds. His mother had been worried and scheduled a doctor’s appointment. From that day on, life changed. When he came out of his weeklong stay in the hospital, he was no longer Kurt, star of the basketball team, the guy whom everyone sought for help with math. From that day on, he was Kurt the Diabetic.
It wasn’t the diet, giving up desserts and counting starches and stuff, that he disliked so much. It wasn’t even the shots of insulin three times a day. What he really hated was being different. He no longer could stay late at the gym after school—he had to eat his meals at the proper times. He couldn’t make a meal of potato chips and a malted, but it had been fun, sometimes. He felt strange, too, about having to do blood tests before he took his insulin. It wasn’t anything to be ashamed of, but he was the only one in his crowd who did it.
No, the worst thing about diabetes was that it set him apart. He was different.
That night at dinner, his father asked, “How are you doing at school, son?”
Kurt’s answer was automatic. “Great.”
His mother glanced at him. “You don’t sound great.”
“Really, I’m okay,” Kurt said.
The next day at school, right at lunchtime, Kurt wasn’t okay. He had
already tested his blood sugar and taken his insulin and was heading for the cafeteria when he felt dizzy, something that often occurred when his blood sugar was getting low. He dug in his pocket for candy, then realized he hadn’t replaced the package yesterday after giving Jim the last pieces. I need something to eat,
Kurt thought, and I need it now.
Jim was ahead of him on the stairs. “Hey, Jim,” Kurt said. “You have any
candy on you?”
Jim shook his head. “Nope.”
Kurt was beginning to sweat. “I feel like I’m having an insulin reaction and I need to eat something right away.”
Jim held up a sack. “I’ve got my lunch. Would a peanut butter sandwich help?”
Gratefully, Kurt took the food Jim held out. “Thanks. I’ll eat your lunch if you’ll let me buy you something in the cafeteria.”
Sitting at the lunch table later, Jim said, “I don’t know why you didn’t tell me sooner about being diabetic. It’s no big deal.”
Kurt ran his hands through his hair. “I just hate being the only one who’s different.”
Jim grinned. “You’re different all right. You’ve got the biggest feet in school.” Without waiting for Kurt’s response, he continued, “If you think about it, we’re all different. My dad says God didn’t want everyone the same, too boring, so He made some of us short,
some tall, some fat, some thin. And some folks have asthma or break out in hives when they eat strawberries.
Being diabetic isn’t fun, I’m sure, but you’re still the same old Kurt.”
“Big feet and all?” Kurt smiled. “You’re right. Thanks for reminding me.”
Jim pushed back his chair. “We’d better go or we’ll be late to English.”
Kurt rose, too. “Speaking of English, have you got your oral report ready
Jim shook his head. “I haven’t settled on a topic. How about you?”
Kurt sighed. “Nothing.”
“Why don’t you give a talk on diabetes? You could educate us all and maybe get an A.”
“I’ll think about it,” Kurt said.
The more he thought, the better he liked the idea. By the following Monday he was ready. He took along his blood testing kit and a bottle of insulin and explained to his class that his pancreas was not producing insulin so he had to inject it and follow a special diet.
He also told them if he acted strange, well, stranger than usual, he said with a grin, that he needed to eat something immediately.
After class, Stephanie caught up with Kurt in the hall. “That was the most
interesting report we’ve had yet,” she said. “My mom’s diabetic, too, and we follow her diet. Lots of fresh fruit and veggies. Actually, I think we eat better than most of my friends.”
“Your mom’s diabetic? I never would have known. My cousin takes piano lessons from her. He says she’s terrific.”
“Yes, the way Mom puts it, she didn’t ask for diabetes, but she’s got it, so she might as well accept it. After all, she didn’t do anything to deserve her musical talent, either, but she’s glad God gave her that.”
Stephanie turned to Kurt. “I think each of us is a special combination of God-given talents—and problems—all wrapped up in one package. Like me, I’m left-handed, with red hair and green eyes. I’m good in English, rotten in math, and I was adopted when I was a baby and I detest Brussels sprouts. Each of us is unique, one of a kind.”
“I like Brussels sprouts.” Kurt paused. “But I get what you’re saying.”
As they walked in silence down the hall, Kurt thought, Okay, so I’m different. But I like the way Stephanie says it better—I’m one of a kind. That’s not so bad.