Empathy: You Have It In You

My daughter sobbed bitterlyBye Bye Butterfree 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.

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About That Unique* Weblog

Adjusting to the car culture, dealing with leaving a career I love, and spouting off along the way.
This entry was posted in Parenthood, People are Good, random observation, Suburban Life and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

23 Responses to Empathy: You Have It In You

  1. outlawmama says:

    Here, here. Your daughter sounds like a sweet and tender button.

  2. Jorge says:

    high level sources in my household, confirm that Ash saying goodbye to Butterfree was a moving episode. though as explained to me, “butterfree had fully evolved and it was time for him to mate. so it was good thing.” I’m watching the FDR documentary right now (dang it’s long), but one of FDR and elenor’s strengths is that even though they were rich and privileged, they could empathize with those who weren’t.

  3. I’ve been finding it very difficult to be feel empathy lately for a variety of reason. Thanks for the reminder to try harder.

  4. one hundred million percent. and as an aside – i know that episode!! it is a tender moment.

  5. dorothyadele says:

    One of the most important values that we can teach our children is empathy, and it sounds like your child understands it at a young age.

  6. want2bwriter says:

    Your logic is solid. I also think in this digital day and age, most Americans feel entitled. It only takes a fraction of a second to hit that LIKE button. We are quick to give our opinions, but slow in taking the time to fully understand another’s perspective.

  7. Kristi Campbell - findingninee says:

    YES. We do all have it in us and we must, if ever this world of ours will change…

  8. ywcourtenay says:

    I ask my kids, “How would you feel if…” when their language skills are strong enough to understand the question. The twins are there now. I asked one last night (after she’d pulled her twin’s hair), “Do you like it when Willa pulls your hair? Do you think she liked it when you pulled hers?” They are 3.5 and old enough to learn. My older kids (9 and 7) move each other to tears singing “Do You Want to Build a Snowman?” with each other. I have video proof of that one. Maybe it’s because I’m a Cancer and drown in empathy naturally, but it is, was, and always will be discussed daily.

  9. Asha says:

    Yes! What a fabulous call for empathy and generosity. It’s too easy to forget, in today’s hustle and bustle, that those are other human beings we’re dealing with. Your daughter is on the right path, I hope she maintains that sense of caring. The world needs more of it.

    • It is too easy, especially in positions or careers that deal with the same problems from different people. It’s easy to forget that it may be the 57th time you’re hearing an excuse or problem or complication, but it may well be the first time the other person has expressed it to anyone.

      thank you for stopping in!

  10. So glad you shared this at yeah write this week. I’m a big fan of empathy. I want it for my son and myself. I want to do better in giving it to others.

  11. Andrea says:

    Here here for empathy. The thing I’ve found with empathy, is that the more empathy I have for others, the more I can have for myself, then the more I can have for others, the more for myself, and on and on. It’s like the big circle of life. Thank you for reminding me to stay in the circle.

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