A Big Cockroach
The greatest life lesson I ever received was from a cockroach.When I was first diagnosed with cancer, I was also left by the man I loved, and at the time, it seemed like my entire life was spiraling out of my control. I lost my job. I lost my youth. I lost my love. I lost my future.
At the beginning no one was quite certain if I was going to survive. I kept collapsing, and my organs kept failing. For a long time I felt abandoned. Not just by the man I loved, but also by God.
I would ask Him why He was doing all of this to me. I wanted to know what I had done to deserve so much pain. Then the more and more often I went to the hospital, the more people I met who were suffering, or were on their way to their deaths.
I'd hear people pray for these people and beg God for a miracle, but miracles never seemed to come. I started feeling myself become bitter. I asked God, why are you doing this? These are good people! They do not deserve to suffer like this. Please, help them, please stop killing these people! I'd even offer to let God give me their pain, if it meant that they could exist for a little while without being in agony.
But it didn't help.
I felt so helpless. My life was not in my control. Several dice rolls had been made at my expense and I had failed them.
Then, one day when I was very slowly walking up to steps to my home, on the way back from a hospital visit, one of these guys scuttled across my path:
A big cockroach.
At first I instinctively moved to crush it with my foot, but then I paused. For some reason it didn't seem to be afraid of me. It just stood there waiting for me to crush it.
At that moment I thought about how big I was and how small it was. How there was no way for us to understand each other. This cockroach's life was alien to mine, and more importantly, it was completely within my power to kill it. I wondered what it would be like to be a cockroach. What would it be like to be so small? Would I understand what was happening to me if a person came and crushed me? Wouldn't my death seem like something cruel and meaningless?
A cockroach doesn't know that it's dirty or that it spreads disease. It is unable to understand that we kill its kind because we see them as disgusting and unpleasant. When a cockroach dies, it does not understand why it is dying.
I thought about how something greater than man could exist and one day I too could suddenly find myself in the same position as that little cockroach. I would hope whatever looked down at my strange, unclean, alien body would look past my smallness and recognize that we both shared one very crucial thing:
We are both alive.
Even if everything else about us is different we both share birth, life and death. In this fundamental way we are equal.
I decided on that day that I would exchange the same courtesy to all I had power over. It only seems fair to treat others as one wishes to also be treated.