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When a Homeless Man Asked What Was Wrong With My Neck

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Shortly after my 31st birthday, I was diagnosed with a rare disease called dystonia. Dystonia is a movement disorder that effects my neck, also known as cervical dystonia or torticollis. My brain and my muscles do not communicate correctly, causing my neck to involuntarily twist and turn. The condition is very painful and there is no cure. In my case, there doesn’t seem to be a cause, either. Every blood test, MRI and x-ray were normal. I’ve never been in a car accident or had a head injury. It felt like it literally popped up out of nowhere. Every day is different for me. Some days I struggle to get out of bed, other days I feel somewhat normal. The hardest part is the isolation. I had to quit my job, and I spend most days at home. I’m grateful for my family, fiancé and friends who have stuck by my side. 

Recently I was visiting the beautiful country Panama. We had just gotten off a ferry from Contadora Island to Panama City, and I was walking down the street. A large group of friends dragged my suitcase on a pretty bumpy road, trying to find a taxi to bring us back to our hotel. I was so concentrated on walking straight, and worried about bumping into someone or something, I didn’t realize a homeless man approach me. He walked with a cane, carrying a few objects on his back. His hair was knotted and he was missing a lot of teeth. His presence initially didn’t scare me, and he walked right up to me and put his hand on my shoulder. He asked me if I was OK, and what was wrong with my neck. I told him I had a neurological disease and he said he’d pray for me.

You could see the sadness in his eyes when I told him there was no cure. Taken off guard, I held back my tears. I didn’t want to break down in front of my friends or this man.

Most people are too busy to notice someone struggling or to even take time to ask if they are OK. Yet, his man with nothing still had the decency to ask. This disease has opened my eyes to see the world differently, appreciate kindness in others and step back from the usually fast paced lifestyle to look around. You never know who you can meet along your journey that will inspire you to help others. I’ll never forget this man. 

The Mighty is asking its readers the following: Describe the moment a stranger — or someone you don’t know very well — showed you or a loved one incredible love. If you’d like to participate, please send a blog post to Please include a photo for the piece, a photo of yourself and 1-2 sentence bio. Check out our “Share Your Story” page for more about our submission guidelines.

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Originally published: June 16, 2015
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