My daughter sobbed bitterly at the end of a Pokemon episode called “Bye Bye Butterfree.” The butterfly (with poisoning abilities?) left Ash to, as my five-year-old explained it, “go and have babies.” She was crying because of the friendship lost and because the characters on the television were so, so sad. It happens often with her; she has deep empathy when she sees others in distress. Even low-quality cartoon others.
More of us could use some of that. A lot more of that.
In the last few weeks, it feels like we’ve been surrounded by a lack of empathy. Somehow, accommodating others has become a sign of weakness, not kindness or concern. Speaking about concerns directly is replaced by complaining to superiors and even demanding termination of jobs. Even while we go through our own health problems or emotional difficulties or over-scheduled lives we have no consideration that others might be in the same — or worse — situation. It’s not quite selfishness, because self-care is important. But it is a type of carelessness, both in the common sense of “Whatevs” and in the Care-Less manner that is more apathetic than aggressively mean.
I think it comes down to a hurry-up norm. No stopping. No smelling of roses.
Even so, perhaps walking a mile or two in another person’s shoes would do us all good. Picture what it’s like to be old and slow and achy, but still sharp in the mind. Imagine how it feels to have a graduate degree in Physics, but speak English haltingly, unable to communicate your thoughts completely in someone else’s native language. Take a second to think about riding with 30-plus elementary school children and middle school children everyday who have contests to see who can be most loud and obnoxious — at $12 an hour and no benefits.
You have time. Really you do.
And once you’ve done that, yes. Absolutely. Advocate for yourself by going to another grocery line or asking to go ahead with your five items and exact change. Cut a conversation short because it takes a long time to speak with someone with a limited vocabulary. And complain to a transportation director about the bus aide being loud or not-so-nice or unsmiling. But do it all with a little empathy. Just a little more.
You have it in you. Really you do.