I had an early morning appointment the other day; I work in medical sales and had to educate a group of nurses on the rare disease I work with at 7:30 am. The meeting was in a suburb about 45 minutes away. I’m a morning person, so I don’t mind the early appointments, but the traffic was thick , I felt sleepy , and I was dragging a bit from staying up too late the night before.
I arrived in plenty of time, parked, carried all of my materials inside, and wished I was wearing more comfortable shoes. The disease I work with isn’t cancer, but cancer specialists are the MDs that treat it, so my meeting was in a large community cancer clinic. I was a bit early, so the conference room was still locked. As I waited by the door, I had a little lesson in humanity, and a big reminder to be grateful EVERY SECOND for feeling good and healthy.
As we are inundated by political posts, by negativity and nastiness and name calling (the N words are never good), as we wring our hands over the future of our nation, as we dramatize emails and hairstyles and the ridiculous reality show that has become our presidential election of 2016, there are people just trying to SURVIVE. They are just trying to make it from the parking garage to the doctor’s office. They are just trying to have a day where they get up and feel well enough to hug their kids and maybe keep their breakfast down.
We get so wrapped up in the details of our own little lives - the soccer practices, the school curriculum debates, the household chores, our worries about paying too much in taxes, the issues at work or in our neighborhoods, that sometimes we forget to look around. Sometimes we forget that everyone IS fighting a hard battle.
I watched as a woman in her mid 50’s slowly walked to the elevator (the elevators don’t open until 7:45); when she reached the elevator, only to realize it wasn’t working yet, I saw her face crumple in despair. Her words were - “I just can’t go any more steps”. Two men standing nearby rushed to her side (I am reminded of Mr Rogers - “look for the helpers”) and helped her into a wheelchair. You could see the fatigue in her face, in her body language. We take our strength for granted until it is absent.
Just a minute later I witnessed an elderly man and wife shuffling down the same hallway. I overheard his words of comfort to her that “it was going to be ok”. I saw a man who looked totally ashen express that he had just gotten some bad news and was here for a second opinion. I saw a young vibrant nurse gently take the arm of a young person as he navigated the long hallway toward the chemo room.
I had my meeting, I thought about the lives that healthcare workers impact every day, and I thought about how fortunate we are to be healthy and alive and to live in a place where we can get good healthcare and where there are treatments for devastating diseases. There aren’t treatments for all of them though. There are people suffering all around us; fighting a battle we know nothing about. I don’t even really know the point of what I’m writing about other than the importance of being aware. I want to be conscious of the suffering of others, I want to be present for people who need help or love, and I want to be grateful for every day that I feel good and strong and capable.
As I was leaving my meeting, I was sitting on a bench inputting some information in my computer. I was just finishing up when a Muslim couple entered and looked around for somewhere to sit. The husband was obviously ill and the wife was softly speaking to him as they looked around the room with anxiety. I jumped up from my seat so they could sit and he said “oh no no no - you sit, you sit”. I insisted I was finishing up and just leaving and to please, take my seat. I watched him lower himself onto the bench and let out a big breath. It was obvious he needed to sit, it was obvious he was in pain, and it was obvious he was scared. I said a little prayer for him and his wife as I left. I thought about the questions, the anxiety, the decisions, the fear that people face when they are ill. I thought about the fact that the people I've been describing were old and young and white and black and brown and Christian and Muslim and who knows what else. None of that matters, does it? We all get one body, we all get a genetic code that may go haywire, we all are susceptible to diseases and pain. We are all the same. We all just want to live and love and be loved.
I thought about just how much we all take for granted each and every day. It made me remember to be conscious. It made me remember that life is fleeting, health can be fleeting; we are all fighting hard battles - some of them harder than others. Give thanks today if you feel good; there are many who don’t. Revel in your strength - use it to help someone, use it to hug someone, use it to live like today could be your last. Life can be brutal, life can be beautiful….embrace it every step of the way. Don’t forget to LIVE.