1halffull's Blog

The Motorized Shopping Cart: Who Gets It?
October 9, 2015, 6:27 am
Filed under: Uncategorized

I was with a friend last week who has experienced the ravages of cancer treatments.  Five years ago, when she first began treatment, she gained well over 50 pounds, not because she ate more calories than she burned but because she had to take steroids to offset the effects of the chemo.  During that time she was weak; every movement winded her to the point that she found it very difficult to shop for groceries on foot.

fatIn order to continue to maintain some autonomy, critical to every person but especially when you’re under such a physical attack, she opted to use the store’s electric cart with the basket to hold her items.  She told me that it was very embarrassing having people look at her as though she was just some lazy, obese person who chose not to walk.  After all, those motorized carts are meant for ‘sick’ people.  She felt as though no one seemed to consider that she just might be extremely sick herself.  You can’t ‘see’ chemo, and the steroids taken because of it, so you judge that person as fat and lazy instead.

Fast forward five years to today.  The ravages of the cancer have reduced her by not only that ‘extra’ 50 pounds but also by another 100 pounds as well, leaving her so thin she is embarrassed by the sagging skin on her arms.  The weakness is much greater than it was before, yet being glad for the abilities she still has, she continues to get out of the house to the stores to purchase her needs.

The downside is that going to the store has made her even more angry than she was before.  Can you guess why?

Each store visit requires that she once again use a motorizethind cart to get around.  However, now she doesn’t get those scornful, judgmental stares.  Now people are okay seeing this very thin, almost frail person using the motorized transportation!  No judging.  No dirty looks.  They hardly pay attention at all.

After this last trip, when she got home, she began to think about all of the above:  then vs. now.  Here’s what she had to say (paraphrased):

“I thought about the difference between that experience five years ago versus the one this week and I got really angry!  I no longer felt judged for using that cart, because now I was thin!  Even though they didn’t know that I have cancer, because I was thin it was acceptable for me to use the motorized cart.

“There’s something wrong with our viewpoint when our message is ‘I’d rather see you have a devastating cancer that leaves you so debilitated that you need help to function than see a fat person, that I presume is just lazy, using the cart”.

“I had cancer back then and was debilitated, but because I appeared fat, bloated as I was from the steroids, everyone just presumed I was a fat lazy slob dogging it by using a motorized cart to which I was unentitled!  Now I’m thin and they think that makes it okay for me to use the cart!  What does that say about us?”

Hers is a valid and very good question:  What DOES this attitude say about us?

I owned up and said that I, too, had done my fair share of judging of the people who used the carts and had no noticeable signs of illness.  I apparently had forgotten my own mom who had emphysema (extremely thin) and my aunt (chubby) with cancer, who also used carts later in their illnesses.

I apparently also forgot, as many others seemingly do as well, that judgement should always be tempered by grace, grace that we all need to offer because we do not walk in someone else’s shoes.  Grace because that person may be swollen up with the preparatory, pre-transplant drugs they need while waiting for a new liver or heart.  Grace because knees or hips go bad.  Grace just because that person you’re scorning is someone just like you:  a human being, with cells, skin, hair, a soul, spirit, people who love them and issues you know nothing about.

Only if I had walked in their shoes, even for five minutes, might I be allowed to have the audacity to judge them.  But I don’t get to and I shouldn’t judge them.

What I can do rather than judge, is show each and every person I see a measure of grace without reserve.  The same measure of grace I hope to have shown to me.