I can be a sarcastic person. I know some of you may scoff at that, as if ‘tell us something we don’t know.’ And I’ll start by saying I don’t mean for this to sound cheesy, although I know how easily it can go there. Being raised Catholic, I’ve always been taught not to judge others, which, as we all know, is much easier said than done. When I was pregnant with twins, and hid it well under my heavy winter coat as long as I could, I often found myself wondering why people didn’t automatically offer me a seat on the subway. Thinking, ‘Doesn’t that young man not realize how difficult it is to carry a baby in the belly, let alone two?’
I’m saying all of this because now with cancer, and almost at the end of my treatment, I REALLY look like cancer. The winter is warming, so I’m showing my bald head a bit more. Going into my last session, my eyebrows are nearly gone, and my eyelashes are holding on by a thread. I hid the cancer for as long as I could. Not on purpose by any means, but with a winter hat on and having more energy than not throughout treatment, I’m lucky that I’m able mostly to continue my normal routine. I know that this didn’t happen to me because of something I did or didn’t do. I know that this is just a part of life. But ever since I was told the news of ‘there’s something suspicious that we want to look at further,’ before the biopsies, before I was told I actually had cancer, long before the double mastectomy and chemotherapy, I was aware. And when I walked around in public, got on the subway, went to the grocery store, life’s chores that each and every one of us must accomplish just to get through the day – I became aware of, ‘I have no idea what that person is going through.’
The stereotype of New Yorkers is rude. Even The Today Show’s poll this past week, confirmed that America thinks New York is the rudest city in the country. I often joke and tell people, ‘It’s not New Yorkers that are rude, but the people who come here.’ But in fact, I can see how this myth can be seen as true. With so many people in this city, from so many walks of life, performing such a variety of jobs, and then possibly going through a myriad of mental and physical troubles, how could one NOT hold a grudge? And when you hold a grudge, no matter what it may be and you’re around others, it can be conveyed as rude.
So when I sat next to an African American man this morning on the subway, who refused to close his legs in order to make room for me to rest myself, I had to hold back my tongue. I had to remind myself, ‘I’ve no idea what he’s going through right now.’ When I walk past a homeless person with the twins, I must always say, ‘We don’t know what happened to that person that made him get to this point in his life.’ When someone pushes past me on the sidewalk, I don’t know if they’re rushing off to make an appointment at the hospital. Or when someone is in a daze and in my way, I don’t know if they’re thinking about the news they just received that will change their life forever.
With that, I leave you with the reminder that we simply don’t know what’s going on in a stranger’s life. And that as we all continue on this road with one another, we’re all in it together. As for that man on the subway, I forged my ass in. He huffed and puffed a bit, because I didn’t ‘look’ like I needed a seat. But three stops later when an obviously pregnant woman got on the train, he offered his seat without hesitation and said to the woman, ‘My wife is pregnant with twins, I understand.’ And now, so do I.