An Exercise in Empathy

The other day, I saw this cartoon:

Nice attitude

It bothered me so much, that I decided to use it as a basis for the following short story.  Please tell me what you think.

Sadie was feeling better today. The treatments had been over for a week and she didn’t feel like she had been hit by a Peterbuilt when she woke up this morning. That was promising. Sadie prayed that she had the strength to get through her two appointments today before the inevitable crash when she would be so dizzy and nauseated that she would have to spend the remainder of the day in bed.

Grabbing her fuchsia Louis Vuitton bag, Sadie headed toward the door. She opened it, stepped outside and, before closing it again, cast a sad look around her room. She used to have a normal life. A great job, a fiancée , even a little house that she managed to buy on her own. But the cancer had taken everything.

First, the man who said he’d love her forever bolted as if his hair were on fire after she told him the news. Then, her boss fired her because the chemotherapy and radiation treatments had made her too sick to work. And not long after that, she had even lost the little ranch she had saved all her life to buy. Her limited savings could only pay the hospital bills or the mortgage, but not both. The only reason Sadie had a roof over her head now is that her sister had taken her in for the last few months of her life.

She stroked her purse in an unconscious effort to soothe herself.  The LV Mott bag had been Sadie’s birthday gift to herself exactly one year ago. Only a month later, she found out she had cancer. She couldn’t bear to part with the one thing that reminded her of the life she once had and hoped to have again someday, and so she didn’t sell the purse, even though it could have covered a payment on her house.

Sighing, Sadie closed the door to her bedroom in her sister’s 4-bedroom house and began her walk to the salon down the street. Her first appointment was for the free hair extensions they offered to cancer patients. Since she didn’t loose all of her hair, she thought maybe a weave or whatever they were called, would be better. That way, Sadie wouldn’t be taking a wig away from a woman who was completely bald after her treatments.

It didn’t take long for her to walk to the salon. The woman who owned the place had decided to take care of Sadie today. They chatted pleasantly while the beautician worked until the owner discovered it was Sadie’s birthday. Immediately, the she called over two of her employees, moved Sadie to a pedicure station, and treated her to a mani/pedi on the house. All the attention embarrassed Sadie, but in her heart, she was very grateful. She could never have afforded all of this pampering and it was wonderful to feel like a woman again. She left the salon with tears in her eyes and a song in her heart.

Sadie’s next stop was the free clinic. She hated that she had to go there, but what choice did she have? She could afford nothing else. The treatments for the cancer had taken all of her savings since the insurance company dropped her.  Medicaid was literally the only thing keeping her alive.

Thinking about her circumstances made Sadie feel depressed all over again. She was lost in thought when something shiny caught her eye as she slowly trudged passed a trash can outside a corner store. Someone had discarded a MAC tinted lip gloss. It was just lying there on top of a crumpled up newspaper. Looking furtively up and down the street, Sadie quickly reached into the receptacle and snatched the tube. Almost overwhelmed with disgust that she had sunk so low, she carefully examined her prize. It was still a quarter of the way full and the pinkish tint was labeled “Comfort & Joy.” Sadie thought that was a good sign. She also figured the cancer would take her life a lot sooner than anything she might catch from used lip gloss, so she opened it, swiped some over her lips, and dropped the treasure into her purse.

Feeling hopeful again, Sadie resumed her walk to the clinic for her appointment. Maybe this wasn’t such a horrible 28th birthday after all.

18 thoughts on “An Exercise in Empathy

  1. M.A, Elliott-Rupert says:

    It’s hard to hit “Like” for something like this. I’m touched by the story and reminded of my commitment to not judge others without facts. Thanks, I’m sure it was humbling to write.

    • totallytawn, ali'i wahine says:

      Thank you. I also need to remind myself not to judge others. I know that not everyone has a back story like this and that some people really do cheat the system, but I think even the cheaters serve a purpose. I’m glad you liked it.

  2. piano runner says:

    That was very well done. A lesson in compassion and not judging others without facts as the preivious reply suggests. Thank you.

  3. Snoring Dog Studio says:

    Very well done. No one knows the stories of people who’ve been forced to ask for assistance and it’s just rotten and cruel for someone to assume a background story. Sometimes we’re a heartless bunch, we humans.

    • totallytawn, ali'i wahine says:

      SDS, thank you! I was worried that this would be a strange way to write a blog post, but it seems to have worked out. Maybe I’ll have to write a happier story next time.

      Not all humans are heartless. Lazy and judgmental? Sometimes. But I know we can all do better. And you, my dear, have a heart bigger than most.

  4. PattyDown says:

    “Never judge a book by its cover” springs to mind but unfortunately its a trait of human nature to judge appearances in a shallow way. Very well written story that makes one reconsider why we only too easily like to jump to conclusions (and often prejudice) due to physical attributes like clothes / make-up etc.

  5. Tar-Buns says:

    My first visit to your site. Nice example of empathy in action. Well written.

    Congrats on being selected as a finalist for The Jacket Competition at Pegoleg site. Sadly, I didn’t make the final cut (just like MSU), but I enjoyed reading everyone’s take on that darn jacket. Ciao’

    • TotallyTawn says:

      Thank you. And welcome! It still blows my mind how many wonderful people and talented writers I have met through blogging, and I’m very happy to include you in both categories. As for the Jacket, I’ve been told that if I do win, Stacy London and Clinton Kelly will arrive at my doorstep almost immediately. 😉

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