Suffering is a part of the human condition, and no one is immune to its effects. And all of our burdens come in different shapes and forms, and all most of us hope for is compassion from others. Strangers, though, are more likely to act with kindness and patience toward those with an outwardly obvious affliction (like one that requires a wheelchair or walker).
But what about those who suffer in silence?
One woman recently experienced the pitfalls of bearing a cross that no one else can see. The subject of a random person’s ridicule, Lexi Baskin is a prime example of what happens when we assume we know what someone’s going through before bothering to ask or offer a helping hand.
The hardest part of being a human is having to suffer from time to time. No person on earth can escape bad things happening, whether it’s something big, like losing a job, or a smaller annoyance like getting ready to leave for a road trip only to discover you need a new set of breaks.
At any point in time, smaller sufferings can be minimized when an even greater trial rears its head out of nowhere. The loss of a spouse or child is unthinkable, as is abuse. Same goes for a loved one getting diagnosed with a devastating disease.
By this point, it’s touched and taken an innumerable amount of lives. No one wants to hear the word “cancer” as it relates to themselves or a loved one, but it’s part of our reality. And it’s one that many people have to accept and bravely stare into the face of. It requires endurance of the highest order, testing even the strongest among us.
Knowing the enormous burden that cancer patients shoulder normally inspires the utmost in goodwill and compassion in others. When we find out a loved one is battling it or simply meet a stranger who’s in the trenches of chemo or radiation, it urges us to lend a hand or a smile to let them know we’re on their side. Usually, we’re ready to dole all the laughs, hugs, and empathy we possibly can.
Not every cancer patient shows visible signs of their very real, internal battle. Those beginning treatment often have yet to lose their hair, and they may look as strong or healthy as anyone from the outside. If the person doesn’t share their condition with those around them, no one would ever know what they’re going through.
No one is a better example of how hurtful this misunderstanding can be than Lexi Baskin, a University of Kentucky student who’s being treated for cancer on her brain stem. Upon returning to her Jeep one day, she found it plastered with horrible flyers stating that she had absolutely no excuse for parking in a handicap spot, when she was, so clearly, “not handicapped.”
Aside from being incredibly rude and presumptuous, what was even more disturbing was how far the perpetrator went to in order to publicly shame Baskin. Perhaps the person had spotted Lexi pulling into the spot, and after merely looking at her, assumed there’s no way she’s handicapped. The offender didn’t just leave a simple note under the windshield wiper, but instead plastered flyers with unkind words all over her vehicle. The goal was obviously to unnerve and shame the college student for her “transgression.”
If you expect to hear that Baskin flew off the handle, ranting and raving about her accuser, you’d be mistaken. On top of being able to bravely battle a horrible disease, she took the incident as an opportunity to post a patient reminder on social media. That message? To remember that there are all sorts of reasons someone might be authorized to use a designated handicapped spot.
Along with photos of her car, Baskin tweeted, “Just a gentle reminder that you have no idea what is going on in other people’s lives.
Baskin went on to give an account of why exactly she was using the handicapped spot. It should’ve been unnecessary, but, like we said, she’s patient.
“This is my car and I am legally allowed to park in handicap spaces due to cancer treatment and exhaustion. Just because you can’t physically observe something does not mean that a person is not feeling it. I had a grade 2 ependymoma on my brain stem. It was removed July 28th and I started radiation 5 weeks ago today.”
After Baskin posted pictures of the unkind incident online, it was hard to find anyone who sympathized with the unnamed accuser. At the end of the day, most people keep the embers of kindness burning, so responses, like this one from another Facebook user summed up pretty much what everyone was thinking.
“Unless you know this person and know without a doubt they do not have a handicap you shouldn’t deface their car. Handicaps come in many shapes and sizes. Just saying.“
There’s no debate that what the vandalizer did was awful, but Baskin’s experience and her thoughtful response served as call to compassion.
She wrote: “Be kind to people. Make people cry tears of joy, and not frustration or sadness. Love one another. I will choose to love this person and pray for them. I hope that the darkness in their heart is replaced with unconditional love and happiness.”
When it comes to cancer shaming, we tend to err on the side of caution.