‘We do not feel sorry for them,’ my mother said sternly. ‘We understood how they feel.’
-Dan Rather and Elliot Kirschner: What Unites Us – Reflections on Patriotism
Mr. Rather is writing about empathy. He is recalling the neighborhood atmosphere when he was growing up during the great depression. His reminiscing included visions of neighbors who were unemployed and living with wives and children is shacks, some with walls and floors and some without either. He speaks of how his parents and uncles used to pool funds from their limited sustenance and provide Christmas gifts to neighbors. The gifts were given to parents when children were asleep to preserve the Santa expectations. Food was provided year around. He asked his mom why the acts of kindness were done. He then answered his own question, “Because we feel sorry for them.” His mother’s stern response formed the substance of his understanding of empathy.
I have heard a similar definition, suggesting that sympathy, or compassion, is when I can reach out and in to the emotions of another.
Those of us who have experienced trauma such as loss of loved ones, severe conditions that change our life purpose, abuse, war, addiction……..Those of us who have had these experiences often are willing to understand how others feel. The traumas that live within us in the forms of pain, shame, violation, belittling, bullying, and so many others; these traumatic emotions connect us in a way that tells us that we are not alone.
To me, there is no stronger evidence of the presence of God than the willingness of another person to relive their agony as an act of compassion toward me. There is a sacred honor in the space of two or more willing to suffer together. These are the only words I have to express such experiences.
What are your experiences?
Please, take a moment to kindle a painful grace on behalf of another who has shared in your healing. Also, offer that same prayerful gratitude as you recall your courage to enter in to your sacred trauma to assist in the healing of another. We are strongest in our weakness. We are courageous in our weakness.
This is the courage we express when we open our space to change the things we can.
Empathy and compassion requires courage.
Courage is evidence of our divine DNA.
Empathy and compassion are evidence of the divine DNA that is the core of humanity and our universe.
Patriotism. Community. Socialism.
What is it that makes a community?
I believe it takes the courage to express compassion and empathy. This is what is seen following an earthquake, flood, mass shooting, or any tragedy. Courageous people step forward with vulnerable hearts. Strangers join energy to the benefit of those in trauma.
I have never seen a wall built around a flood zone or disaster area. I have seen efforts to connect with those in pain. It is these very efforts of compassion that unite states of common divine DNA.
The result: our places beside the restful waters.
See you there.