Michelle & Zak

“Derona did a great thing when she found YOU to be my advocate, Zak!” Michelle tells me at least once every time we get together. Michelle and I were matched at the very beginning of this year.

I have to say, she is right: together, we are one heck of a team. We share more commonalities then would at first be apparent to the casual observer. Certainly, our friendship, bond, and our advocating together, have helped to keep me positive during a tumultuous chapter in my life. Michelle is often very positive about the things I have helped her with. Having someone appreciate your voluntary commitment to them is as good as a paycheck any day!

Michelle has reminded me time and time again how important two things are in life: 1) Being grateful for what you have, and 2) each of us has some challenge that we must overcome. Some of our challenges are apparent, and for some of us they are not so obvious. Being Michelle’s citizen advocate reminds me how we can make a difference in another person’s life and in the process make our world a better place.

Our partnership has helped both of us face the loss of our fathers, battle our shared moments of depression, and turn our feelings of hopelessness back into the fight for moving on to the next page or next chapter in each of our lives. Michelle’s willingness to battle her current reality and keep hoping for a better future is awe inspiring. On top of all of that, we have become really good friends. She reminds me when I need to stop and listen and I some times I remind her when she’s making drama out of nothing. We do an amazing job of making each other laugh—often at the same time. Out in public, people often ask me if Michelle is my daughter. Both of us always answer, “Yes!”

Our battle for Michelle to be treated humanely at the nursing home where she’s lived for over three years has at times, knocked the wind out of us both. When I think about it, I can’t imagine living there even a week. Seeing first hand people who allow their bias or unhappiness affect how they treat a person that they are paid to provide care for can be demoralizing. Confronting the institution’s uncaring administrative “leaders” who ignore and deny the cruel behavior of their staff scares me to my bones. Knowing that anyone could survive under such treatment for a week, let alone for years, reminds me how strong and amazing Michelle truly is.

Michelle’s life is about to have a new and exciting chapter. She was recently approved for Section 8 housing. We’ve been looking for an apartment for her. Soon she will finally be in a home of her own. Michelle has voiced concern that our relationship will end once she’s moved into her own place, but I am not going anywhere. Like Michelle said, Derona did a great job of matching us. Our friendship will most certainly continue; Michelle and I are family.