Stairs, Cancer, and Babies

People in New York City practically run up the stairs in the subway. Usually there are two lines: the line on the right is for people that are going up the stairs at a slightly accelerated pace and the line on the left is for people that are really hustling.


My father was visiting me in 2013. At the time he was not able to keep up with the pace of stair climbing that is the standard in New York City. He was constantly tired as we walked around the city. I remember giving him a hard time for being out of shape and not being able to keep up. Maybe I was even judging him…. Let’s be real, I was definitely judging him.

Turns out that my father was constantly out of breath because he had cancer. His colon was bleeding causing a lower level of iron in his blood, which is essential for your blood to carry oxygen to your body parts. My father was fatigued because his body could not distribute oxygen efficiently.

This story comes to mind when I sense myself judging another person. It reinforces for me how important it is to give others the benefit of the doubt.

With my father I could not have known, and in fact no one knew, what was going on in his body at the time. And that is exactly the point, that in most instances we are not fully aware of the circumstances that are causing specific behavior.

It is human nature to want to assign causality, and we often use our own experiences to frame our assessment of others. But we do not really understand what other people are going through in their lives, and it is wrong for us to make assumptions that make us feel negatively towards that person.

Lets be creative with our assumptions, to shed a positive light on the person’s actions. Maybe the man running through the street is trying to get to the hospital because his wife is giving birth. Maybe the man taking his time to order coffee is completely discombobulated because he just witnessed childbirth. Maybe your coworker is short in conversation because his child kept him up all night. (All potential things that could happen to me any minute.)

Ultimately, I feel that when I am less judgmental I am also happier. I guess it feels good to think the people around you are also good.

Stairs, Cancer, and Babies

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