Finding Food Allergy Wisdom

This week at a post-Christmas family dinner, the conversation turned to football.  Not surprising with my family.  My son, husband, father, and even my sister love talking football.  I’m not an avid football fan in quite the same way they are (except for when it comes to my Fightin’ Texas Aggies).  I get more enjoyment out of the underlying stories of the coaches and players.  I’m a total sucker for the heartwarming segments on ESPN and SEC Nation about players overcoming the odds and giving back.

Stay with me here.  I’m going to talk about football for a minute, but it relates in a much bigger way to our food allergy journey. 

Our dinner conversation soon focused on a recent (2014) hire for my Texas Aggie football team, Mikado Hinson.  Hinson’s title is Director of Player Development but it’s not what you think.  He’s not just another football coach in a growing college football dynasty.  Believe it or not, he doesn’t even groom players for the game.  His only job is to listen to players navigating emotional and mental challenges of their collegiate experience.  Hinson listens but also reserves the right to provide guidance if the situation calls for such action.

Guiding athletes through the storms of life is nothing new for Hinson.  During the last 14 years, he’s served as the Team Chaplain and Character Development Coach for the University of Houston Cougar football program.  Hinson also served the Houston Rockets as Team Chaplain from 2000-2008.  To learn more, check out this TexAgs interview with Hinson.

So how does what Hinson does at Texas A&M apply to you, much less food allergies?

Look past the man and focus on the concept: listening and reserving the right to provide guidance IF the situation calls for such action.  Do you have someone that listens to you and will guide and gently redirect if needed?

Consider these scenarios:

  • You eat at a friend or family member’s who thinks they have made a safe meal, when in fact it is a food allergy minefield.  Do you:  Resolve never to eat there again?  Become angry and lash out?  Bring out the safe food you carry with you and kindly educate?  Invite them to your house next time?  Consider that your child is watching and learning from your reaction to the situation and will mimic it when faced with a similar situation on their own?
  • You are speaking to a friend about the way another family tried to accommodate your child during a recent play date.  You are angry at their inept handling of the situation.  Your friend listens and sympathizes because having been such a well-educated non-food allergy friend, she understands.  Then she gently asks:  What will you do?  Will you stay angry?  Will you forbid playdates with that friend?  Will you educate?  Will you invite the friend to your house next time?  Will you consider the safety AND feelings of your child as you handle this situation?
  • You are blogging and a frustrated reader pens an angry email about one of your heartfelt posts.  Do you stop to consider that:  Everyone has a bad day now and then?  The person behind the email is hurting?  The author is at a different point in their food allergy journey than you are?  There is no making everyone happy all the time?  Sometimes there is more than one approach to solving a problem?

Go through each of these three scenarios and write down your initial gut reaction.  Is it what you thought it would be?  Is it what you want it to be?  What were you listening to when you chose your response?  Your heart?  Your head?  Your emotions?

Would your reactions have changed if you discussed it with an objective confidant first?

I think we all need someone like Mikado Hinson in our lives:  Someone who will listen without reserving judgement.  Someone who won’t simply tell us what we want to hear without objectively thinking it through.  Someone who isn’t afraid to tell us we might need to think a little longer and harder about the situation at hand.  Someone who is trustworthy and wants us to succeed in life.

Find that person in your life and remember to utilize them as a sounding board when the challenges of the food allergy life strike.

“No man has all the wisdom in the world; everyone has some.”  -Edgar Watson Howe

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