Officially, dictionaries define an advocate as a person who speaks or writes in support or defense of a person, cause, etc. But an advocate is so much more than that.
To begin with, an advocate is someone who identifies with a need, an issue. They can see a problem, and they realize how this problem affects people. At this point, the need of others becomes their cause too.
An advocate wants to be part of the conversation surrounding their cause. They expect to be part of the solution. They protect those who are affected by the negative impacts of the issues they’re facing. They bring a voice to the voiceless, a spotlight to shine on their cause and the people affected by it.
Advocates marshal resources and raise money and set up tables and hand out information and give talks, so people not affected by an issue have an opportunity to become part of their team, the team fighting for improvement and empowerment for all who are part of our diabetes community.
What is an advocate not? An advocate is not someone who is afraid of the word “advocacy”. Admit it… that word makes you cringe a little, doesn’t it? Let’s get rid of the stigma of this word, and the feeling it gives us when we read it or speak it. Advocacy, advocacy, advocacy. Get comfortable with it. Advocacy, big or small, is good, and it should make us feel good when we define it through our actions.
In addition, advocates are not people who worry that they’re not good enough, or influential enough, or important enough to do anything meaningful. Here’s a news flash: You Are. They’re not concerned that whatever they’re doing isn’t big enough or special enough to be helpful. Fact: If you’re doing something to further the cause, no matter how small your effort is you are a champion and worthy of the definition “advocate”.
Advocates are those who possess the empathy to identify with a need, and the resilience to do what they can to eliminate the need. They further the issue they’re fighting for, and they support and empower others who are doing the same. They are not afraid to do something that will help no matter how small or big.
Advocacy comes in all forms. Bravery does too. If you speak honestly, with a focus on making things better for people affected by diabetes, you are an advocate. And I thank you for what you’re doing for me.
This post is my February entry in the DSMA Blog Carnival. If you’d like to participate too, you can get all of the information at http://diabetescaf.org/2014/02/february-dsma-blog-carnival-3/