The Great Equalizer


The world is a sad, scary place right now. There’s violence and unrest, there’s divisiveness, there’s fear and ignorance, and there’s great sorrow. My heart aches to watch the news some days. The world seems to be so focused on what makes us different, and thus opposed, than what unites us as a common humanity.

At the cancer center yesterday, though, I couldn’t help looking around and seeing what makes us all the same.

I notice this almost every time I go there for an appointment. I like to think of cancer (or illness, in general) as the great equalizer. It can, and does, happen to anyone.

One glance around the lobby of the center proves this. You see everyone there: male, female, old, young, white, black, Asian, Latino, (or pretty much any other race), thin, heavy, etc. People pull up in sleek luxury SUVs and ratted-out clunkers (and everything in between). That waiting area is truly a cross-section of humanity.

And we’re all sick. Some more so than others, for sure, but at our core, all sick. We’ve all had the breath knocked out of us with getting the diagnosis. We’ve all suddenly faced the grim reality of our own mortality. We’ve all worried about how we’re going to get through this, how the drugs/surgery/radiation will ravage our bodies, how our family/friends/coworkers will handle this upheaval that affects them, too. We’ve all been so very afraid. We’ve all wondered if it’s possible to survive this.

I look at all of us and see we’re all the same. And I’ve started looking at people outside the cancer center that way, too. Sure, every person isn’t going to get cancer. But every human being on this earth is going to face their own death at some point. While, yes, that is incredibly morbid, it’s also a reminder that we’re all such fragile beings, and no matter who we are or what we look like or what we believe, we’re essentially all the same in our fragility. Our lives are so brief, so fleeting, that it is truly baffling that we spend so much of them being angry and hateful. That we waste our precious moments hurting others. That we don’t see the value of a life and realize that it’s a wonderful gift that should be treated with respect.

So, while the lobby of the cancer center is probably one of the most depressing places on the planet, it’s also one that gives me an odd sense of comfort. I feel an unspoken camaraderie with every single person in there. Because we all know. We know this ride is a short one, and it can end at any moment, so we’re going to make the best of every second.