I’ve been thinking a lot about empathy and compassion lately. And why wouldn’t I be? We’re living in a completely topsy-turvy world in which our president has signed executive orders to deport millions of immigrants, to keep other immigrants out and to build a wall along our southern border. These are certainly insane times.
I’ve also been listening to “Jagged Little Pill” again ― an album I was drawn to in my faux 13-year-old rage ― and have glommed onto a line from the song “All I Really Want” that says, “I’m frustrated by your apathy.”
Cause as I weed my way through everything about this new president that infuriates me, I keep coming back to something that should come easily: the seeming inability, or unwillingness, of the people in power to have any sense of empathy whatsoever. Their apathy IS frustrating me.
Their apathy toward women and their general well-being. Their apathy toward the LGBTQ community. Their apathy toward anyone they deem as “other.” It’s not only apathetic; it’s un-American.
I’ve been called a “bleeding heart liberal” before. But I call it exercising empathy and its sister feeling, compassion.
And as a parent of young kids ― kids who are privileged and hopefully young enough not to remember these (please God) four years ― those ever-important feelings are something I’ve focused on instilling in them.
They don’t understand what a bully is yet; they don’t understand the devastation so many people felt on November 9 and why; they don’t yet understand the glass ceiling. But I’ll be damned if they don’t understand the need, the dire need, for more empathy and compassion in this world and how they can play a part.
I told my oldest son the story of the starfish last night.
Basically, a little boy is on the beach throwing stranded starfish back into the water. And a man walks up to him and essentially says, this beach is very long and you can’t make a difference for all of them. And the boy looks at the man, picks up a starfish, throws it back into the water and says, “I made a difference to that one.”
The story’s not just about empathy ― it’s about compassion and understanding that helping one living thing is better than not trying to help at all. But the lesson is the same: Be good to each other.
Ask the sad or downtrodden if they need help, don’t build a wall to keep them out. Always help, no matter the obstacles.
That’s a lesson all of us, from President Donald Trump on down, should learn.