My Theory of Relativity
Today I saw a cancer victim walking through the park holding her son’s hand. She was my age, in her mid thirties. Her son was about 4 or 5 years old, the same age as my son. She wore the standard bandana over a head that had lost all of its hair. She had the familiar pale skin that the cancer drugs produce. They walked slowly and carefully through the park, holding hands and talking.
I had stopped at a stop sign in our neighborhood on my way to a third store. I was trying to find a ribbon that would match the wrapping paper on a gift my son would be taking to a birthday party over the weekend. I was frustrated and annoyed that I had not been able to find the right one. I was bothered by traffic and by having to run another errand. But I was headed to the next store because I did not want to take a gift without the perfect ribbon.
As I sat at the stop sign in our neighborhood too long, watching them walking and smiling at each other, I wondered what they might be talking about. Were they wondering if she would live to see another holiday, another season, or another birthday? Was he asking how many more bedtime stories she would be able to read to him? Was he wondering if she would ever be able to chase him around the back yard again? Was she assuring him that she would or was she preparing him for the possibility that she might not?
I turned away from the store at the stop sign and went back home. I tore off the nice wrapping paper on the gift and threw it away. I pulled out some paper grocery sacks and my son and I wrapped the gift together with them. We colored the outside of the paper with 16 different colored crayons. We made a big ribbon out of cut up paper towels and it was the best wrapped gift at the party.
Life is what it is. Some good, some bad, mostly somewhere in the middle. Life is everyday, the constant tick of a clock that can not be unwound. I will still get upset sometimes about trivial things, things that don’t matter, things that I won’t remember next week. But I will try hard to remember that woman walking in the park with her son, him holding her hand and looking up at her smiling, both of them praying and wishing for her to stay another day, another week, another year. I will try to remember that sometimes the best gifts are the ones right in front of us, unwrapped and messy and complaining about their day. I believe that everything is relative. Somewhere there is someone praying for another day, even my worst one, and they would cherish it like the wonderful gift it is.
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