do unto others as if they had cancer

Wow, shocking title, right? But think about it for a minute – what if everyone you knew had been diagnosed with terminal cancer? How would that change the way you treated them, how you looked at them, the words you spoke to them? For those of you who’ve sadly known someone who’s battled this awful disease, you might know the answers to these questions all too well. But maybe it’s time we all take stock of how we treat the people around us by considering an alternative context. Simple things like saying “I love you” are obvious, but how about the larger issues we deal with? Is it really a worthwhile endeavor to hold back one’s forgiveness until only brief moments of that person’s life remain? Or to refrain from encouraging our loved ones’ dreams until they are too weak and broken to achieve them? It seems like every self-help book on the market these days is all about staying present and living in the moment, ideals that Eastern philosophies have been ascribing to for thousands of years. But for whatever reason Americans continue to fail miserably when faced with this opportunity. We persist in putting our focus on anything but the present moment – we constantly focus on past grievances, injustices, and failures and, because of that, we do everything to get out of the present (where we are thinking about our horrible pasts) and into our assuredly happier future.

But what if we all had cancer?

At that point your life as you know it would stop and that ideal of drifting slowly off to sleep in your 90’s would be gone forever. No doubt it would change your mindset and give you the proof you needed that each day really could be your last. But how would it change the people who know and love you? I’m just guessing, but I bet they’d be nicer to you. I bet they would think twice before saying or doing hurtful things. I bet they would leave the past in the past and try to make your last days on this planet more enjoyable. But I’m just guessing.

Try it out. Tomorrow when you wake up, imagine that every person you encounter all day has cancer and see if it alters your behavior in some way. After all, the experience they have with you may be one of their last.

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