A guest post from Operation Gratitude volunteer Nancy Pappas:
My Operation Gratitude story is one of finding new identities and fighting pain. We all have our problems, but it is the way we deal with them that makes our lives a success or failure.
My background is in Patent Law and in addition to my busy career, I was actively involved in playing league tennis until serious leg pain took me off the tennis courts and away from my close friends there. The friends wanted me to come anyway, but the sight of them playing and my physical inability to do the same kept me away.
The pain increased and so did the physical challenges until finally my doctors gave me an ultimatum and made me choose between walking or working. They felt the stress of the profession was causing the nerves to not heal in any way and that the continued job stress was making the nervous system go the opposite direction from healing.
I chose walking over my career.
The first few days of “retirement” were incredible. I had lived in the profession as my identity and now I was stuck at home with no identity and tons of pain. My social base had been my tennis pals so I had no social interaction to call upon. I was an emotional mess. I had totally lost my identity and I went from the top to nothing overnight.
I flopped around like a fish out of water for several months and tried to figure out what life now had for me other than pain and separation. I watched countless hours of television to pass the time. One day I saw a short on Operation Gratitude and I remembered the days when I designed my own sweaters, did contract knitting and taught in a retail store at night. I decided to give the project a try.
I looked up the hat pattern on the net and went out and bought supplies and got started. Focusing on something other than pain seemed to help and by being involved in the project I didn’t feel as disenfranchised as I had felt before. In 2011 I set a goal to make 50 hats.
Knitting became a new way of life. I no longer felt apart from the world even though I physically was, somehow I again felt connected. When I was knitting I could focus on something other than the pain and I didn’t have to walk to knit. The 50 hats were counted in July and it was over 150. I decided to go for 200 as a goal.
Feeling better about myself and having some self-esteem back got me out cruising, of course with knitting in tow. I started to interact with people again and now I was a knitter and not a company president but that was okay. I would watch television and see the stories of the soldiers and would feel in some ways connected to them. Their struggles and their sacrifice humbled me so that my struggles seemed small in comparison. At one point in our travels I ran across an active duty soldier with his daughter going to Orlando as a Make A Wish child. I gave him a hat myself. It was then that I truly felt connected.
In 2012 the 200 hat goal was again attained and I have already started the shipment contents for 2013. I still can’t walk and that has actually gotten much worse but I can still knit and still find ways to travel. Those I meet when I do I tell about Operation Gratitude since that is a partial focus of my life.
It’s not what trials befall us that dictate our lives, but our responses to those trials. Going from the top of the corporate world to nothingness was a hard fall, but somehow that is not as important to me as still being able to give in some way. The knitting project definitely redefines me, but not as a professional hard-going executive, but as a person who gives to others at least in a small but personal way.
Thank you, Nancy, for all your hard work and support. Thank you for sharing your inspiring story here!
For more information on the Scarves (and Hats) for Troops Program, please visit:
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THANK YOU for your support!