Fearless Friday: Learned Empathy

This morning I did my best to avoid a particular cashier lane at the grocery store. My local grocery store proactively employs people with differing abilities, whether physical, learning, or social. There is a young woman who bags and likes to have loud, occasionally inappropriate conversations with anyone, anywhere. I am a jerk in the morning. I don’t want to talk to anyone, anywhere. I tried to pass by unseen, but the cashier called out to me. “I can help you here!” I smiled weakly and turned back into the lane.

canstockphoto3618060She yelled down at me from the end of the conveyor: PAPER OR PLASTIC? and I silently handed her my cloth bags, already feeling the irritation grow. WHAT’s YOUR NAME? MINE IS _____. I mumbled something about not being awake yet. NOT AWAKE YET? THAT’S A FUNNY NAME. I could feel my face grow hot as people in the lanes next to us turned to look. I’m simultaneously ashamed of my self-consciousness, lack of compassion, and growing hostility towards this woman, who obviously could not read social cues. Where was my empathy and understanding? I suspect it was in a cup of coffee and a few hours of silence. In the moment, it completely abandoned me. I could hear her yell as I exited the store. BYE NOT AWAKE YET!

I think about empathy a lot and how a true master wouldn’t ration it. Wouldn’t pick and choose who was deserving of engagement based on whether or not I’d had my morning drug of choice. Empathy is a skill that, like any skill, grows with practice. And practice is sometimes uncomfortable and forced and against all our inclinations. Empathy allows us to flip the script. I wouldn’t have been doing her a favor by engaging – she was not the one with the problem. I saw in a flash, that I was both insecure and petty and it made me less empathetic and kind than I like to believe I am. Next time, I have a chance to do better.

I think we all have empathy.

We may not have enough courage to display it.

Maya Angelou

Welcome to Fearless Friday.

Feacanstockphoto13410470rless Fridays are about lives lived in spite of our fears, living a life that is about curiosity, compassion, and courage. If you just got published, something wonderful happened to you, you witnessed an act of kindness or bravery, or you have someone in your life who amazes you, drop your story into my contact page or email it to TheGreenStudy (at) comcast (dot) net and I’ll run it on a Fearless Friday. If you’re a blogger, it’s an opportunity to advertise your blog, but this is open to anyone who would like to share.  These will be 100-300 word stories, subject to editing for clarity and space.

One of the gifts of reading is increasing empathy. Hearing or reading about another person’s experience and perspectives, letting them sink in, without preemptive judgment, is a gift to oneself. This is the wonderful thing about the blogging world – so many worldviews being shared. Opportunities abound for us as readers to expand our world, understanding, and empathy for fellow humans. So today I’m sharing some of the blogs that have expanded my worldview.

Robyn at Blog Woman! Life Uncategorized is a citizen of the Cree and Michif Nations. She is passionate about indigenous peoples issues in Canada. I’ve learned a lot from reading her blog and now, her Twitter feed as well. “What’s Under the Fight to Do Right?” encapsulates why she does what she does.

RJ at RJsCorner describes himself as “an Independent thinking highly functional person who is deaf and has some Aspie traits.” He has himself on a rigorous blogging schedule, with each day covering a different theme and a wide range of subjects. His post “Never Stop Learning” is part of his 10 Pillars of life – not only has he continued to learn, but he is unerringly, a teacher as well.

Randall at Midlife Crisis Crossover blogs about traveling, comics, and movies. Here’s the funny thing – I’m not particularly interested in comics or movies, but I really enjoy reading his blog, which is often a breakdown of exactly those things. But strong writing and his obvious enthusiasm for his subjects are a winning combination. As someone who likes to keep up with things a bit, I especially enjoy his roundup posts like “My 2018 at the Movies, Part 1 of 2: The Year’s Least Best“.

Torey Richards, a Licensed Mental Health Counselor in Florida, writes at LMHC: Sharing Information and Exploring Human Behavior. The blog is a hybrid of clinical information, case information, and the writer’s personal experiences, which makes for interesting reading. Sometimes the posts are about intense, potentially-triggering issues. But blogs like these, about mental health conversation and information, are part of the antidote to the stigma and silence that have plagued our society with regard to mental health issues.

These are just a few of the blogs I follow that have broadened my perspective. Thank you to those bloggers and the many more who open windows to their worlds.

What’s your empathy look like? And where do you go to broaden your world view?