Labels are for jars, not for people

Something delightful happened to me when I went for chemo treatment to the hospital.  I was mistaken for a visitor, and not a cancer patient! The significance of this was astounding. Since my diagnoses on February 3, each time I have gone to the hospital, my identity has been that of a cancer patient.  When I go to get my bloodwork every Thursday, my hospital number is checked and I am asked to confirm my name and my birthdate.  When I go to get chemo every Thursday, it is the same routine.   I am first and foremost a patient at the hospital and am treated as such.  At the beginning, I responded by acting like a patient – passive, acquiescing, obeying.  This was easy to do when I was not feeling particularly well.  Thankfully, I realized quickly that I was more than a patient — I was a person.

So, I decided to change the dance.  I started dressing up for my hospital visits and looking forward to them.  Woo hoo chemo!  I found  that, as a result, I was walking taller and taking charge.  I went to the hospital with the intention of making the many hours at the hospital work for me and the people who looked after me.  i focused on getting to know the people behind the uniforms.  The curious thing is that when I changed my dance, the people I interacted with were compelled to change their dance steps.   My behaviour and attitude were having an impact on people I was meeting.  And my relationships with my caregivers, went from boring, status-quo two-step dance to vibrant salsas and exciting stories to tell each other each week.

And then today when I was assigned to chemo ward purple, number 14, I saw a cancer patient in my pod who thought I was a visitor who had come to visit someone else in our pod.  I was flabbergasted.  I was pleasantly surprised.  And then I was overjoyed.  For one of the first times at the hospital in 8 months, I was not seen as a patient!  And it came to me that so often we label people and limit them to the constraints of that label.  We are so much more than that.  Each one of us — and the people we meet everyday — are fascinating, complex beings with hopes, dreams, challenges, pain, passion and stories.  What if we did not label them?  What if we got curious about everyone we meet — including our parents, children and significant others — as if we were meeting them for the first time?  What might we discover, what might we create together?  Labels are for jars, not for people!

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29 thoughts on “Labels are for jars, not for people”

  1. This is awesome! Unfortunately labels are put on people too quickly, and without taking time to know the whole person. Your experiment proves this point. Also you have proven the power of positive attitude, and ones appearance can project in the world.

    1. i could not agree more Ashif. I think it is part of our hectic life. We place labels and they stick. if we were to see people as “whole” and look to see the best in them, we would be a better world. Muni

  2. Thanks Munira. So emotional and soul searching for me. You are such an inspiration. Hallo to Sabrina and hope she is well and the whole family too.

    1. Hi there! Everyday is an opportunity to learn isn’t it? This is part of my blessing to learn and share my experiences right now. Sabrina is great – – I am beyond thrilled to have my best friend home again! Who are you, anonymous? Munira

      1. Munira I have been following + reading every word you have written and you still make me shake my head. With each post you seem to be more in touch with who you really are and with each post you let us see the real you – unadorned – basic. I can’t imagine you will ever be the same and nor will I. I am in awe!

        Lynn

  3. What a wonderful observation to share with us, Munira. It reminds me that there are so many little lessons to be learned and insights to be gained all around us in the course of our daily lives.
    The challenge seems to be how to find a way to enable these to register on our “radar screens” in the moment, amidst all the hurry and distractions that drive us forward.

    1. You are so right Ian. We live in a hurried, busy society where it becomes easy to label people immediately for better or for worse. New research suggests that we make up our minds about people within 8 seconds. I think it requires keeping an open mind. No easy task!

  4. Dearest Munira,

    For a moment there I couldn’t recognize you! Given that I just woke up and am squinting at the picture of you, a caregiver, and sunflowers without my reading glasses, I thought you were one of them young hospital nurses smiling at the camera for you! How is that for a new jar with a new label? You look amazing and I love the new hairdo….

    Deva

    1. Love the new label Deva! You have such a way with words!
      The sunflowers were a present from someone who came for an impromptu visit to see me at the hospital. And then when I came home, another friend had sent me more sunflowers. Wonder what the universe is saying. Love you lots, Munira

  5. Saira Nasiridin!

    The universe is saying that may you always shine! Munira you are an amazing person. You gives me inspiration every single day! I am really hoping that i can come to Toronto soon so than i can meet up with you. You look gorgeous as usual!! Be Blessed!

  6. I was going to respond immediately after reading your blog but took the time to see some of the other posts. I, like Deva, couldn’t differentiate between the 2 “teenage looking” girls on the screen. You look wonderful! Lots of positive thoughts and vibes coming your way always!!! I’m so grateful to have you in my life (I add that one as my daily ritual of listing things I’m grateful for).

    Dilshad

  7. This just proves again what a special person you are. I could not agree with you more.
    You continue to inspire us all with your sunshine!

  8. Curiosity to know others and how to relate is what I also had learnt from my Dad as a child and I love to interact with others and find out what am I surrounded with…It’s a gift that we all can appreciate… I definitely want to see you in that spirit that you have always been in the past… bubbly and vibrant 🙂

  9. sales people especially at the bank are trained not to judge people by appearance., a person who is completely dressed as a wimp can turn out to be your biggest valuable client and also the one to bring more referrals ,its how you think, talk, accept diversity, be open minded, dont take comments personally and see what you get!!!! on the other side a person in clean expensive suit can only be a rate shopper or probably not so much to offer as a client. sometimes people overdress to hide their own identity or to feel good, its normal,whatever makes you happy, its the perception and how well you want to be received and what can you give and take from the other person you interact with!!! never judge the person by face value

  10. I guess as you come from HR background , HR normally “jars” or label people ?not yourself for sure, , i know you personally, you are very open and have willingness to share and learn and listen , honestly, but normally HR personnel have , I said have a tendency to “label”? right away , in the first few seconds
    lol smile of the day!!!!

  11. change has to come from within first and we have to learn to embrace change or else it becomes difficult

    Man cannot discover new oceans unless he has the courage to lose sight of the shore.” -Andre Gide

    salome:))

  12. Getting over a painful experience is much like crossing monkey bars. You have to let go at some point in order to move forward.” -C.S. Lewis

    34.“The greatest mistake you can make in life is to be continually fearing you will make one.” –Elbert Hubbard

    Courage doesn’t always roar. Sometimes courage is the little voice at the end of the day that says I’ll try again tomorrow.” -Mary Anne Radmacher

    Yam Mukhianimaar

    hope you like these quotes

    Salome:)

  13. You are truely amazing… we are so blessed that you are sharing this with us, so inspiring.
    Instead of writing protocols etc, may be you can seriously consider writing a book. I think it would be great!!

  14. Munira, I have not commented but have read your family blogs as often as I could. This is the only blog I read. Today I caught up with Sabrina’s “..so He created mothers” and yours on “labels”.
    You are all in the Premji family unbelievable in your unconditional support for each other / for people regardless who they are, for your selflessness and the LOVE you exude all the time.
    Maria and I think of you often and pray for your rapid and complete recovery. The world absolutely needs you in all respects.

    1. Richard. I was so touched to receive your note. You know I think the world of you and Maria – – we have so much history together. Thank you so much for your encouragement, your prayers and your support. While I would not wish cancer on anyone, it has brought undeniable blessings in my life, starting with the time spent with Nagib and the family and the wonderful bonds and memories we are creating together. I hope to beat this cancer, the rest is up to God. So Amen to your prayers.

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