what airports in October teach me about compassion
To probably no one's surprise, I'm at the airport again. Since The Invisible Girls launched, I've been to 48 states and 11 countries. I fly A LOT.
Because October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month, airports this month are always awash in pink.
As a breast cancer survivor, sometimes I'm grateful for the reminder that I'm not in this fight alone, that other people are passionate about curing the disease that nearly took my life.
Sometimes I'm jarred by the small things that throw me back to memories of the worst months of my life -- a pink balloon at the gate, a pink sign that greets me when I get off the plane. I've stopped caring if people see me tear up at the sight of a flight attendant's pink cravat.
Sometimes the pink makes me weary. Because I remember how hard I fought through five surgeries, eight rounds of chemo, 30 sessions of radiation, a year of Herceptin infusions, three years of Zometa infusions, a pill every day and a shot every 6 months. It makes me weary to recognize how hard I'm fighting even now against the side effects of the medicines that keep me alive.
And sometimes the pinkness makes me grateful. Because I'm here. I'm still here.
As I sit in this airport, I'm reminded of October 2015, when I flew home after serving at a hospital in West Africa for three months, landing at an airport awash in pink, remembering my cancer battle, and learning a new lesson about compassion.
So here it is, from my heart to yours....an excerpt from one of the last chapters of WELL.
I walked to baggage claim to retrieve the large wheeled duffel bag that held three months of belongings. The walls in baggage claim were awash in pink—pink ribbons, pink posters, pink banners—and it took me a minute to remember that it was October, Breast Cancer Awareness Month. As a breast cancer survivor, sometimes I celebrated Breast Cancer Awareness Month with gratitude, and other times I loathed the ubiquitous reminder of the disease that had nearly cost me my life.
As I waited for the conveyor belt to start moving, I thought about how, for several years now, whenever I told the story of the Invisible Girls, I had said that because my breast cancer diagnosis disqualified me from serving as a full-time missionary in Africa, God had brought Africa to me. God had given me a consolation prize of working with Somali refugees on my soil because, for a long time, my cancer diagnosis had made it impossible for me to travel to theirs.
Standing here now, minutes away from my feet touching American soil for the first time in three months, I suddenly had the humbling realization that I had been making unfair and untrue value judgments for a really long time.
I had assumed that loving people while standing on the soil of West Africa was more valuable than loving people while standing on a sidewalk in the United States.
That traveling for hours on a plane to get to people who were suffering was more significant than driving ten minutes in my car to the local rescue mis- sion, or the Somali girls’ apartment—or even walking to the neighbor’s house next door.
Somehow, I believed that I earned more cosmic points for loving people while jet-lagged than for loving people while well rested.
That eating strange food was more significant than eating leftovers from my favorite take-out place.
That serving people who speak a different language from me was somehow more important than serving fellow English speakers.
It took a hard three months in Africa to open my eyes to the fact that the Somali girls were never a consolation prize. That cancer didn’t deprive me of God’s Plan A for my life. That I was where I was meant to be, and if I never used my passport again, the life waiting for me in the States was just as significant as the life I thought I’d have as a missionary overseas.
As I pulled my heavy bag off the carousel, I thought, Maybe in God’s eyes, the soil under our feet doesn’t matter nearly as much as the compassion in our hearts. Maybe the love we show to others is infinitely more significant than the ground on which we stand.
WELL launches November 7th! Pre-order your copy wherever books are sold.