There is a beautiful video from the Cleveland Clinic setting the groundwork for empathy. Click here to see the video. What I love about this four minute montage is that is reminds me that every person we encounter throughout our day has a story. One could argue that a hospital intensifies situations but I think if you did a similar montage in a mall, school or local street your would see the same spectrum of fears, heartbreak, pain and joy.
I know that I have written a lot about empathy. It just seems as if there isn't much of it going around. Everyday there is another story of a group of people not getting along, harming each other with words or actions and ripping apart the fabric of our society. It is another story of people thinking of themselves and not of anyone else. It is another story of people not being empathetic to one another.
I guess like any other habit or behavior we want to change it is best to recognize the problem first. When people only think of themselves it comes out in their speech- "I, mine, me." How many times do we talk about ourselves only? Do we use the "I,mine, me" language more than the "you, yours, us"? Certainly in this political environment, one doesn't have to look far to hear examples. There is a fun country song by Toby Keith called "I Wanna Talk about Me." The chorus goes: "Wanna talk about me; Wanna talk about I; Wanna talk about number one; Oh my me my; What I think; what I like; what I know; what I want; what I see; I like talking about you, you, you, you usually; But occasionally; I wanna talk about Me." I know that times I have to stop myself and honestly ask, am I doing that?
We can start paying attention to those around us. We might not be comfortable asking the person standing behind us online at the grocery story, "How's it really going?" but we could offer a smile and say a silent prayer that today they would receive whatever they need to keep going. We can recognize that there might be something big going on in their lives. Bigger and more important then the purchase of a loaf of bread, bananas and milk. We can recognize that a little kindness might be all they need to separate a lousy day from a pretty good one.
We can start by keeping the lines of communication open to our family, friends and neighbors. Whether we want to ask the people around us how they are, we can still be aware of the nuances of their reactions, statements and behaviors. Many times it is through the simple act of spending time together and listening to each other that we can start to develop empathy and consideration for others.
What about you? How's your empathy level? Have you ever spent a day wondering about the unsaid realities of the people you meet?