Perspective: Hilary Welch
2006 Conference: A Family Reunion
Hilary Welch, NOI's Administrative Assistant, attended the 2006 Conference. Here are her impressions of that singular event, which she likens to a family reunion.
I've never attended a family reunion, but I felt like I was watching one as I sat at Wednesday night's registration table and watched old friends greet each other with warm hugs and talk to each other as if the past two years had been a momentary interruption in an ongoing conversation. Children and adults alike rekindled relationships with an ease that blew me away, reminding me more of a warm family reunion than a stuffy medical conference.
That impression strengthened as I watched old friends reach out to first-time conference attendees. As they greeted each other, I saw a spark of unspoken understanding pass between them. It was the understanding of someone who has shared the same life-changing experience, who has felt the same fears and hopes, the same anxieties and dreams. I saw such relief flash across the face of those first-time attendees, as they realized that they really aren't alone, that the person standing in front of them and the people surrounding them understand what they've experienced. As more and more people recognized that bond of understanding and realized that they'd found their second family and emotional home, I felt a current of energy surge across the room as everyone exulted in the exhilerating relief of finding a place filled with people who understand and accept you in a way very few others can.
I was also deeply impressed by each of the adults with nevi. I've met many people who enjoy playing the part of the helpless victim who is battered by uncontrollable circumstances and whose miserable fate is sealed by those same circumstances. None of the adults with nevi are like that. Each is intelligent, articulate, confident, capable, passionate, compassionate, and uniquely gifted. Each is an amazing human being, the kind of person parents hope their children become. I found myself wishing I had their security, their ability to reach out and embrace everyone around them, their aura of absolute certainty that they are exactly who they are supposed to be, and they are doing exactly what they are supposed to be doing with their lives.
As the conference continued, I was increasingly impressed by everyone who attended the conference. Everyone had a deep passion to make the world a better place for people with nevi, and everyone was willing to do whatever they could to realize that dream. I was struck by their compassion for others, their passion for acting on that compassion, and the many ways they can focus that passion and channel that compassion.
By the time the conference concluded, I was convinced that I was in a room with a group who not only want to change the world, who not only have the means of changing the world, but who are actually on the brink of changing the world.
Attending the conference was like attending a family reunion and discovering that your family is made of secret Mother Theresas, Mahatma Gandhis, Princess Dianas, and Bonos. I know it's only a matter of time before the rest of the world discovers how incredible the NOI family is and how much of an impact it's about to have.