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I'd Like to Get to Know You

My daughter, Lindsey, and I made a quick trip to the grocery store and went our separate directions in search of the few items we needed. As I headed toward the checkout stand my daughter found me. She had a look on her face that I couldn’t quite figure out. I asked her if she had found what she needed and she responded, “Kinda, and I just had the weirdest experience.”

“I was looking for something and this woman walked straight up to me and said, ‘Those shirts are ONLY for survivors!’ At first, I didn’t even know what she meant and then I realized I was wearing my Relay for Life Survivor’s shirt. I just looked at the woman and quietly said, ‘I am a survivor.’ ”

I immediately asked, “What did she do? What did she say?”

Lindsey said “She just mumbled, ‘Oh, . . . sorry,’ and walked off.

The protective mother bear in me wanted to hunt the woman down and give her a “How Dare You!” speech.

Lindsey broke my mounting fury by saying, “It clearly never crossed her mind that kids get cancer too.” For some reason that immediately softened me. I realized how quick I am to judge based on assumptions I’ve made and realized I’m right there with that woman.

It’s a lot easier to group people together and make broad assumptions than it is to get to know people as individuals. She could have asked Lindsey about her connection with Relay for Life in that moment. Just as I can take the time to get to know people rather than make broad, sweeping assumptions about people because they’re Republican or Democrat, Catholic or Buddhist, White or Black, Young or Old.

I believe the labels we put on people blind us. You see, Lindsey was wearing shorts that day along with her Relay for Life Survivor’s t-shirt. If the woman had looked at all of Lindsey rather than just her shirt, she would have seen the 15 inch scar that runs down her leg. She had already decided though that young and cancer don’t go together, so she completely missed the scar. What may have been a beautiful opportunity for connection was traded for a moment of embarrassed silence.

I’d like to open my eyes, open my ears, open my mind and open my heart and get to know you. What do you say?


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