Saturday, December 11, 2004

The frailties of the humans

Riding up the escalator I could hear but not see, someone was coughing or choking, and a woman's voice obviously in a state of alarm was saying, "Shall I call someone, shall I call 911?" I made my turn and quickly moved past the two rationalizing to myself that the woman seemed to be recovering now. Then, she distinctly looked up and made eye contact with me. It was not to be a clean escape for me. I quickly diverted my eyes and walked on. Did she suffer from asthma, have a panic attack, was she choking? Why didn't I take two minutes out of my time to simply go over, offer a word of comfort, put my arm around her for a second, exhibit any tiny bit of emotion? I don't know. I just walked by. She was probably embarrassed about choking in front of everyone and I should have stopped to inquire as to her well-being. If my husband had seen this happening he would have stopped. That's the way he is. If I had walked by the man lying on the road would I be like the Good Samaritan? (Luke 10:29-37) Doesn't look like it. I had a bad feeling at the very instant that I did it. Is there a pounding my head against the wall emoticon?

Then in Macy's dressing room I overhead a young woman, a retail clerk who I'd guess to be about 19 or 20, talking to a customer who was very frail and sitting down. The elderly lady had health issues, I forget what they were, but I was struck when I overhead the young lady tell the elderly woman that she had had colon cancer and she proudly announced that she was now a survivor. She said she got a check-up every six months to ensure her body was cancer free. By looking at her you would never have guessed that she'd fought, and won, against a life threatening illness.

At my Sunday night fellowship meeting there's a woman, a mother of two, whose 5 1/2 year old son was born with cancer. How does a child get born with cancer? He's healthy and well now but when she shared her heart wrenching account of what they had gone through at the hospital and in their family, there was not a dry eye in the room. She looks like a regular mom. I'd never have guessed by looking at her that she'd gone through such a trial.

Life is so tenuous. Everyone has a story. People I see, people I pass by every single day, people I'm too busy to talk to, embody wonderful and fearful stories that I don't even know about. I walk by, completely unaware.

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