Last year was the first time I became aware of a guy named Joe Solo. (Actually his full last name is Solowiejczyk - much like my own name, it's often mispronounced.) My introduction came during the Friends For Life conference last year, and as it was my first time there, the whole thing was new to me. I didn't know that CWD gave out awards each year. I also didn't know why the room of 3,000 or so people suddenly rose to their feet during the banquet dinner one night, generating loud applause peppered with "Wooo!"s and whistles.
"Who is this? I don't even... but everyone else is clapping. Okay." And up I stood, clapping along with them, for this stranger on stage. It was later mentioned that he had marked 50 years with type 1 diabetes earlier that year, so okay, that's pretty cool, but still - I was perplexed. Why were my friends so in love with this guy?
Then I attended what I believe was called "Diabetes Burnout" - a session Joe led. Literally within the first minute of his opening remarks, it hit me. Oh. This guy. This guy speaks my language - including the bad words! I love this guy! And I got it. It happened again this year; I chose a session that ended up not being what I expected it to be, and taking the suggestion that was presented to us on day one of "if you're in a session and you don't dig it, it's okay to get up and leave and find one that suits you", a few friends and I headed to Joe's session. Within the first ten seconds of entering the room, I felt as though I had found "home".
It's not enough to tell you that he "gets it". I'm not sure it's enough to tell you that he might be one of my favorite PWDs to listen to; that the wisdom he drops will blow your mind, if you haven't heard it before; that he is what I think the epitome of the spirit behind You Can Do This is. He's not perfect, and he realizes that. He celebrates that. And you know what? If Joe can survive type 1 diabetes for 50+ years with the attitude and personality he continues to have - there's a lot of hope for the rest of us.