My eight-year-old son, Guy, just learned to ride a bike. It’s been a long time coming. Two years ago he fell hard while trying to learn to ride. Nothing serious happened to him, just some scrapes, but since then he has refused to have anything to do with his bike. He pretended not to care when his older brother, Tom, went bike riding in the park. He pretended not to care when his friends rode their bikes and he trailed behind on a scooter. He insisted that he was never going to ride a bike because he just didn’t want to, he didn’t need to, and everything was fine in his life without riding a bike.
This was true. And since I’m not usually a believer in pushing children, I didn’t tell Guy he had to learn to ride a bike. I expected him to come around on his own. But two years passed, and he didn’t. So I finally decided that given the “change” in the air that’s going around in Tel Aviv, it was time for things to change at home, too.
For those of you who don’t know, the shrinking middle class in Israel has begun to protest, demanding a change in socioeconomic policies. To protest the lack of affordable housing, demonstrators have pitched tents around Tel Aviv. And Saturday night over 250,000 people marched in Tel Aviv, calling for social justice. Mike took Tom, and Guy to the demonstration. Little Adam and I watched it on TV. (We also looked out the window at both the moon and the circling news helicopters, which Adam found very exciting. “Ooohhh, a big one,” he’d shout at the helicopters. And, “two moons!” he shouted over and over again, noticing the moon in the sky and its reflection in the window.)
Feeling invigorated by the spirit in Tel Aviv, I started to talk to Guy about bike riding. “You’ll be great at it,” I promised. “You just have to try.” I reminded Guy of my friend who is such a good cyclist she’s going to ride across all of Israel in the fall. “I bet she could help you learn to ride,” I said.
She did. In next to no time.
Guy practices riding on a shady boulevard a few blocks from our house. Normally, the boulevard is empty, except for a little bit of foot traffic, but now it’s lined with tents. As I’ve watched Guy gain balance, learn to steer, and pick up speed (and very nearly crash into a number of tents) I feel proud- proud of him, and proud of the people in Israel, who are trying to make the country a better place.
The diabetes world, too, can be a better place. Sadly, there are millions of us living with diabetes. But the voice of millions is a strong one. We can make the best of living with diabetes. It will never feel like a blessing, but it doesn’t have to feel like a curse.
Last week Manny Hernandez sent a letter to President Obama – signed by over 80 diabetes advocates, researchers and doctors- requesting that he attend the United Nations High-Level Summit on Non-Communicable Diseases in September to push for better health for all of those living with diabetes. Asking President Obama to attend a meeting is just the beginning of what we can do.
I see the seeds of change all around me, and I believe that if Guy keeps peddling he could be the best eight-year-old cyclist in Tel Aviv. If Israelis keep protesting, the changes could go much further than the cost of living. For the first time in years, I feel hopeful about Israel’s future. I feel hopeful about the future of diabetes care, too. We need to work hard ourselves and demand better from others. We need to continue calling for a cure. Just because something seems impossible to achieve, doesn’t mean it is.