Today I was doing an errand and was in a crowded public venue. I needed to make contact with the person in charge and a lesser mortal pointed out to me the person in charge.
There was a bit of a shock. I was given the person in charge's name ... it was the name of someone who had let me down years ago when I was trying to get healthcare together for my then recent cancer diagnosis. This person had blown me off in a terribly insensitive and irresponsible way.
But my guide was pointing out the person in charge to me -- the person I recognized by name -- the name of someone who had let me down -- and the woman I saw was not at all whom I remembered.
She wore the distinctive colorful headgear of a woman who has lost her hair to chemo. Her flesh was pallid, limp, bloated. Even her eyebrows were gone. I remember a loud, big woman, whose features announced her ethnicity. This was a mere shadow; she could be of almost any race, the face of an ill person of almost any race.
I felt ashamed of how angry I had gotten at her, years ago, when she let me down. I had indulged this anger then because I was seeing the world as a dichotomy: on one side were people like me, poor, unfortunate, now stricken with cancer and without health insurance because of injustice, really, and I had seen her, this woman in charge, as kissed by the gods of fate and good luck.
And here she was, a couple of years later, looking terribly mortal and vulnerable.
I am doing well. My health is better than hers, at this moment. No matter how poor I am and how good her health insurance is, no matter how badly she let me down, she was now the unfortunate one, and, today, I am comparatively okay.
I wanted to stop and pray for her good fortune right then and there, and pray to be forgiven for being so judgmental in the past, and for insisting on investing in mere appearances. Healthy and powerful today; facing death tomorrow. We all share this aspect of the human condition, no matter who we are.
I approached her, hoping just to get the task done that needed doing. I hoped she would not remember me. In fact she gave no sign of remembering me. I moved on, wiser and more mature, I hope.
In response to this, Rusty Walker wrote, "I love the quote from Schopenhauer in a letter to Goethe: 'Each day is a little life: every waking and rising a little birth, every fresh morning a little youth, every going to rest and sleep a little death.'"