How Lyme Disease Has Taught Me to Walk in Another's Shoes


To walk in the shoes of another for even a mile is hard to do. It is hard to place ourselves outside of our own perspectives.

As a person who has Lyme disease, an often invisible and debilitating chronic illness, I see the importance of looking beneath the surface. We need to realize that a smile or a gentle hand on a friend’s shoulder is worth its weight in gold.

While not all pain is created equal, the human condition is an equality shared by us all. We all have the aptitude to feel both pain and empathy.

Having an illness that is long-lasting and difficult – if not almost impossible – to cure adds a new perspective to life. It opens the windows of the heart to care more deeply for others. It helps me to realize that although my own life is quite often a challenge, others face many challenges as well.

I am a proverbial counter of blessings. Looking for the lesson in each situation I have faced has helped me to find meaning behind my pain. While I realize that not everyone shares my perspective, I want to be that person who is the sunlight in life to others.

Like Mother Teresa so aptly put it, “Let no one ever come to you without leaving better and happier. Be the living expression of God’s kindness: kindness in your face, kindness in your eyes, kindness in your smile.”

a person's feet wearing old sneakers against a wooden floor with sunlight hitting the feet

While I know everyone does not share the same beliefs, we can all be kind.

There is a popular slogan within the Lyme community that says, “Be kind for Lyme.” I would like to change that to “Be kind for life.” Although every illness has its own unique challenges, kindness transcends them all. A drop of kindness can heal a multitude of unseen wounds.

Even though I am not happy to be sick, I am thankful for the light my illness has shined on my own heart. Without the perspective of physical frailty, I may have missed the mark in valuing each new day.

Every day people die from chronic illness. Be the voice that says, Your life matters. You matter. I’m glad you are here.

Often the brightest smiles hide the deepest pain. The most encouraging people are the ones who have faced the most hardship. It is these people who realize that sunlight is only skin deep.

The burdens of life are made much lighter by the strength of a friend’s shoulder. Be that person in 2017! Be the one who asks, “How are you?” and truly means it. Be the one who makes a difference and dares to walk in another’s shoes, if only for a moment.

Happy New Year! May it be filled with hope, healing and joy.

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Geneieve M. Goetz - Chronic Lyme Disease Warrior

Genevieve M. Goetz is a yoga teacher and writer who lives with chronic Lyme disease.