On a Sunday like today, I am finally done catching up with my homework, ready to battle it out with this week’s academic ordeals and finally done recuperating from Runway preparations (that mind you, is more than meets the eye). And as the smell of rain continues to fill my room, a cool breeze blowing by every once in a while, today I write about a decision I’ve taken the longest time to make. Pardon the long post about to follow, I tend to have a lot to say to difficult decisions that I make.
I have decided that this year I will shave. It’s hard to think of where to begin but I suppose 2 years ago would be a good place to start. The first time I considered participating in hair for hope, I wanted to be part of this insanely courageous festival of people shaving heads and once in my life, I would’ve liked a reason to be bald. But then, I never felt like all these superficial thoughts were reason enough to subject myself to the amount of judgement and attention I would possibly receive and besides, ‘shaving my head doesn’t directly help cancer patients in any way at all’. That worked out pretty well in my head and the process of filling forms, signing up, travelling to RI would be far too troublesome.
These excuses for my lack of courage has finally made way for belief and bravery this year.
Over the years, I have changed my mind about Hair for Hope- seeing peers and seniors actively support this event and the various service learning experiences and advocacy efforts I have been involved in till today has inspired me to take courage in what I believe in.
I believe in empathy. That empathy is such a different feeling and act from sympathy altogether, which we tend to choose over empathy so commonly. Empathy requires bringing oneself into as similar a situation as possible, to experience every possible negative feelings another party may experience and to understand the kind of reaction best for the person out of genuine care. It has been a personal challenge for a while now to exercise empathy actively to people with different needs because this experience of acting on empathy constantly humbles me and reminds me of my fortune, and then inspires me to act on the injustice of fate.
I admit to knowing little than I possibly can about children cancer, I know far less than a couple of statistics about the realities of it and I agree that shaving doesn’t mean I’d instantaneously understand the pains of the illness or the experiences of these people. But to me- the most practical way to help them is to be a genius cancer researcher and find painless treatment with marvelous technology or be a multi-millionaire philanthropist donating millions to cancer treatment to alleviate the financial burdens of the illness. Unfortunately, I’m none of the above. Instead I’m part of another possible source of their pain, society. I want to find out for myself if the social stigma and judgements cancer patients are subject to is real and this would be my first step to understanding their predicament, even if it’s in the most superficial of ways, I have decided that I have to start from somewhere.
I believe in action and advocacy. That with no action and sharing of awareness, thoughts and values towards those forgotten or neglected in our society have less meaning and impact. But if a simple action could inspire thought and awareness towards something that isn’t discussed enough amongst us, then there’s no reason why not.
So as this act of shaving will call for attention upon myself, I hope people would look beyond me and my action, and question my purpose or explore these ideas about how we treat and understand cancer patients in our society. There is more meaning to Hair for Hope if we all learn to look beyond the people or our superficial lens through which we judge and gossip and speculate, and think about their thoughts and beliefs driving their actions. There has always been a popular misconception about the event- that it’s platform for the attention seeking, to do something different and be remembered; but I challenge you to imagine yourself shaving. Would you really shave just for attention and to be noticed? There are far simpler acts to bring you that.
While deciding to shave will definitely not be the hardest part of this chapter I have found courage to begin writing, I hope to find inspiration and feed off the bravery of the cancer patients fighting their illnesses in our society. For whatever this may be worth, this is my way of taking a personal stand towards cancer and Hair for Hope 2014; and I hope you’ll do the same by thinking about Hair for Hope on a deeper level.