A few months ago, Humans of New York did a several week series sharing the photos of children and their families at Sloan Kettering battling cancer. I obviously followed along and each story tugged on my heart. If you haven't seen it, I would definitely encourage you to go back and read each post.
Anyway, one of the doctors was quoted saying something that has stuck with me. It was something I have tried to put into words, but just could not figure out how. The quote is:
"Cancer engenders immediate fear. I think that deep in our soul, we don't want to admit to the possibility that we might have it too. So when someone else gets cancer, we turn that person into an "other". It that person is "other than us", then maybe it won't happen to us. For the past thirty years, I've done everything I can to keep children from feeling like an "other". Yes, this child has cancer. But this child is a normal kid..."
He keeps going, but you get the gist. While I personally can relate to exactly what he is saying, I think that the word cancer could be replaced with many other circumstances as well. We all read and see stuff in the news everyday, and I know I am guilty of making those people "others". I feel like it is an automatic reaction to seeing disturbing things. No one wants to admit the truth...that those people aren't really "others". The sad fact is, we are all people and what hurts one could hurt any of us.
While the exact circumstances of the recent events do not necessarily effect me directly, just as cancer may not effect you, there are people who it does. It is easy for us to turn those people into "others" because we can say well, I am not a cop or I am not black, or I am not Muslim, or I don't go to parties or I don't live in an unsafe area or I am not gay or...I could keep going, but do you get my point? We all make other people "others", but those others we create are also doing the same thing to us.
I think my recent experience with cancer changed my view on "others". I now know that anything can happen to anyone. I was not an "other". Those people in Orlando or in Bangledesh or in Turkey were not "others". Those cops in Dallas or the recent victims of police brutality were not "others" either. I feel like I can better put myself in people's shoes. All those people had families and friends and a whole life that we do not even know about. Obviously I am not saying I understand completely what they are going through (I can't even pretend that I know what other cancer patients are going through), but I do feel like I have more empathy for them. All those people in the tragedies in the news recently could have been me. They could have been you, too.
I am not saying that this is the answer, but I really think if we stayed away from categorizing people as "others" then we would all see things differently. We may be different and lead different lifestyles, but in the end we are all people. All people deserve to be respected and loved, and all death is to be mourned. One of my favorite quotes from My Big Fat Greek Wedding is at the end when the dad is giving the speech and he says"
"You know, the root of the word Miller is a Greek word. Miller one from the Greek word "milo", which is mean "Apple", so there you go. As many of you know, our name, Portokalos, is come from the Greek worked "Portokali", which mean "orange". So, okay? Here tonight, we have, ah, Apple and orange. We all different, but in the end, we all fruit".
(Bonus points if you read that in his voice)
People are people and while we do not like to admit it, there really is no such thing as an "other". It is a trick we play on ourselves. Some people have been slammed recently with this truth. It is very hard to come to terms with the fact that any one of us could find in ourselves with cancer or in a shooting or in some kind of trouble. I am not saying to walk around in fear, but the world needs more empathy. We see it directly after times of trouble, but what about the rest of the time? We all need to care about one another as we care for our own family and friends. No one is that much of an "other" that they do not deserve the same love and respect.
I will end this post by saying my intention of posting was just to share some thoughts going on in my head. Not to start controversy or a conversation about politics. I am sincerely praying for all the victims of recent events and for better days ahead for everyone.