empathy2

Oh … good morning… and welcome. Only a month until Halloween!

I’m talking to myself here today, but you’re most welcome to listen in…

The word I’m hearing in my head is empathy.

Empathy is an elusive killer for me.

I search under the couch pillows for it (score, a nickel!) but can’t always find it.

Empathy is a daily battle against our internal hurricane forces.

Empathy is difficult for most of us. For Trump, empathy is a word that doesn’t even exist. Too bigly maybe.

Empathy is all about understanding. Flushing ignorance. Discovering compassion.

When I feel anger and distrust and suspicion and fear it’s often rooted in my lack of empathy, an inability to put myself in someone else’s shoes.

I see it over and over again in others too.

My Dad used to have a small slice of birch wood etched with the words from a poem titled Walk a Mile in His Moccasins written in 1895 by Mary T. Lathrap  (often attributed to various First Nations tribes):

Pray, don’t find fault with the man that limps,
Or stumbles along the road.
Unless you have worn the moccasins he wears,
Or stumbled beneath the same load.

There may be tears in his soles that hurt
Though hidden away from view.
The burden he bears placed on your back
May cause you to stumble and fall, too.

Here’s an “empathy” example from this week:

It seems really strange to me when I’m helping out at the local soup kitchen and a fellow volunteer (sometimes several volunteers) gets pissed at the downtrodden clients at the serving window.

Stringy hair, missing teeth, stained and torn shirts, bruised eyes and vacant stares. Some better, some worse. All hungry.

Just yesterday a usually lovely, friendly woman chopping carrots next to me turned in snarl and said: … they’d have more success in getting volunteers to help out here if it wasn’t for all of these freeloading fruit pickers.

I cringed, blood filling my ears. Instantly – empathyless – I wanted to yell at her and add sarcastically: … sure, and how about all these drug addicts and homeless people that won’t go out and get a job?

angry vegeatbles

This is a double conundrum.

I’m hearing a lack of empathy for these folks in her anger, her refusal to wear another’s moccasins … plus I have to suppress the bitter distaste I feel towards her for her unkind beliefs and my struggle or refusal to wear her moccasins.

In my head I’m saying to her, why the hell do you come to work here (for free) if you don’t feel that the people coming in should get a free meal? This is a f*%#ing soup kitchen!

Angst comes from a lot of different directions.

It’s hard to see a homeless person in the street. Maybe you  have a relative in the hospital. Or a friend in jail. You’ve watched someone descend into an addiction. You scream and swear in a rage at the a**Hole that just cut you off in traffic.

I often don’t know how to deal with the vitriol in life. Sometimes I’ve been stupid and just avoided these people. That’s my fear speaking.

But no, I tell myself, this lady chopping veggies may have had a rough start to her day and her minor frustrations are boiling over in a weak moment. It happens to us all, right?

Maybe her house had a water heater leak overnight and caused a minor flood. Lots of maybes…

Of course being empathetic doesn’t mean you have to be abused by anyone. There are some people we’re better off leaving to stew in their sour anger and frustration. We can’t save everyone.

But we can take the time to breathe, think, and reflect and look a bit deeper for the reason, the root of someone’s anger, frustration or unhappiness.

Empathy takes time and patience and a positive view that sucks energy like an old 100 watt light-bulb.

Yes, empathy needs an energy generating bootcamp.

Compassion and empathy are muscles. And it’s important to exercise. Empathy bootcamp.

And the best way to change someone’s life is when they really need your help and you have the ability to give it, if only in gracious restraint and a willingness to accept that everyone has their own unique troubles.

Exercising empathy is probably the healthiest muscle to exercise.

Wise idea? Maybe…

I only hope I can listen to my own words going forward…

NB: This blog post is dedicated to the memory of Julia Christine Lane (1986-2019), a beautiful, compassionate, and highly empathetic soul.

empoathy heart