Nine years ago this week, I was diagnosed with Cancer.
Today, I’m cancer free.
There’s a smiling homeless woman I see from time to time at Little 5 Points. (For those of you who don’t live in Atlanta, Little 5 Points is an artsy-eclectic (ish) bohemian hangout area of town. You may see a purple-haired Goth-chick hugged up with a blood-clot Rastafarian with knotty dreadlocks.)
Anyways, this lady always asks for money. I’d give her change when I first moved over there but after seeing her repeatedly, I shrugged her off when she ‘bothered’ me.
One day when I saw her smiling as usual bout to ask me for money, I cut her off mid-sentence, “I don’t have any money.”
She said, “I just wanted to give you a dollar. You gave me some money a while ago and I wanted to pay you back.”
She smiled and reached out to give me a crumpled up dollar bill.
I thought she was running game trying to make me feel guilty. You know how they try to do the reverse psychology thing, like saying “Ain’t God good brother? Can I have a dollar?” They ain’t slick.
I declined anyways.
She told me she hasn’t always been homeless. She explained that she’d suffered a severe concussion and had mental issues as a result of being repeatedly hit with a hammer by an abusive husband. She also told me she was a college graduate and that her only son had been killed in Iraq, which worsened her overall mental state.
When I asked why she was always smiling she said, “It could be worse. Some women in the shelter are scared to come outside because their boyfriends or husbands will kill them. Even though I’m homeless I count my blessings. That’s why I smile. I’m blessed and I’m free.”
I stood there embarrassed at my earlier actions.
I thought about her this morning.
It’s so easy to get caught up in wanting more and if you’re not careful you’ll find yourself measuring your ‘worth’ based on how much ‘stuff’ you accumulate. Once in a while, we should chill out and realize how blessed we are. We should never take for granted how precious life is.
It can all be taken away in an instant.
I remember during one of my radiation treatments I was sitting next to little girl, bald from chemo treatments, who couldn’t have been more than eight or nine years old.
Initially I was focusing on my issues. I complained to my friend who drove me to Emory about how rough radiation was. I could no longer taste any of my food due to side effects and the burnt skin had started to peel from my neck. I was also frustrated about my feeding tube that was in my stomach leaking liquid nutrients all over my clothes.
I noticed the little bald girl pointing into a magazine and saying to her mom with childlike eagerness.
“Two more treatments then I can grow my ponytail, right mom?”
Her mom replied, “Yes honey, two more treatments and you can grow your ponytail!”
You could see the little girl’s anxiousness glowing inside her as she smiled.
We were both going through the same physically and mentally horrendous radiation treatments but instead of her dwelling on the fact that she was bald, sick, or had side effects, she was grateful that one day she would wear a ponytail again.
What a concept.
It’s easy to take shat for granted. Many of us enjoy good health, awesome family and friends, and high-paying jobs.
And you get these awesome emails from me.
Boy I tell ya, you’re blessed.
I don’t wanna get all preachy but take a moment to remember how blessed you are to have good health, family and friends, a decent job or maybe even a something as small as a ponytail! Thank God for all that you have.
After all, it could be worse.