I had a post (in my mind) for Sunday. I had it ready to go and all I had to do was sit down and write it. But the events of this weekend silenced me. It caused me to step back and think about empathy and compassion.
Too many events had happened, starting from Saturday morning to Sunday evening. I wanted to share with you on what they were, I didn’t feel right-at the moment.
Of all the emotional roller coaster events that happened to me this weekend, one event stood out the most:
We were in the mall. The woman’s restroom was closed, due to cleaning. This didn’t bother me because I always have to go use the family room which was separate.
Since the restroom was being cleaned, the family room had a line of women who had to use the restroom.
It was my turn next to go in.
I enter with my children (both in tow) and my husband.
There are no other changing tables in any of the other bathrooms in the mall. This was it.
My daughter is too old to go into the mens bathroom, so they all go in with me, and I tend to each child.
Mr. C assists me.
While changing my son, a woman who is waiting next in line says through the door, “Have some consideration, there are people waiting to use the restroom!”
Of course this is hard to hear because there is an infant (my son) who is crying because he doesn’t like to be changed in a public restroom, and my daughter who is upset because of the automatic flushing toilet.
(something out of a comic book I’m sure).
Before this knock on the door I was:
- Fully aware of the people who were waiting next in line — which is why I tried to work as fast as I can, while tending to 3 people (myself included).
- Aware that there were women who had to use the bathroom as badly as I had to.
- Aware that the women’s restroom was closed–due to cleaning.
As I’m changing my son standing up, with this knock on the door, I wonder:
- If she saw me walk in the bathroom with two children — one of them an infant.
- Aware that she was standing on line at the only family restroom in the mall.
Not too long ago, I asked, if were a society that hates kids, but I think the feelings goes deeper than that.
What if we are a society that lost compassion and empathy for one another?
I’m not saying, because I am a mother with two kids, I deserve to get a pass in life–I don’t. I’m not saying that my situation was worse than hers.
I don’t know her story. I don’t know if she was ill or not.
She doesn’t know my story. She doesn’t know what I have gone through just minutes before entering the mall, and what I was carrying in my heart.
What struck me was that she’s asking me to have consideration for others while screaming over a crying infant who I was changing.
All through the web, and when I open the Bible, I’m reminded that our words can tear a person down our build them up. I am reminded of the power of our words.
We throw out phrases like: consideration, sympathy, empathy, but I sense these are just key words. Words that we have to remember without actually exercising their meaning.
Consideration: thoughtfulness and sensitivity toward others. (the definition I’m sure this woman was going for)
Empathy: the ability to understand and share the feelings of another.
These don’t mean the same thing!
We can be sensitive towards another person, but that doesn’t mean we care about their lot. We don’t have to care about what they are going through, we just have to consider it–think about it; but it doesn’t require action.
Empathy is where true human connection happen.
I understand what you are going through, I know what those feelings are. What can I do to help you? This all happens after you thought about the other person’s situation.
As I come across other people in life–the elderly, pregnant women, families. I can understand.
I don’t expect a woman with a cane to move as fast as I would.
I don’t expect a mother who is with an infant to be super quick while changing them.
I don’t expect a parent with a crying child in a toy store to be serene and calm and say, “No Billy, we are not getting that.” with a sweet voice without screaming.
I understand. I consider their situation. I put my self in their shoes and I empathize with what they are feeling. I then have compassion for them, because they are not alone, and I do what I can do for them to understand that.
Instead of asking myself are we a society that hates kids, I need to ask, did we lose compassion for one another. Did we lose our ability to empathize with one another?
Are we more self-centered and only concerned with our wants and desires, and needs?
Are we serving ourselves, mankind, or God with our actions and deeds.
Did we stop caring about the greater good?
There were tons of things that I could have said to her when I opened the door. There were many thing that were on the tip of my tongue, that would have been true (and appropriate) to say without me feeling guilty afterwards. But I didn’t say any of those things.
I asked her, if she saw the kid, and the infant? I asked her if she saw that it was the only family restroom in the mall she was complaining about.
I asked without anger, but I asked with a questioning voice.
(Silently, I’m asking if she considered these things)
She didn’t answer any of those questions; she stayed silent.
I didn’t wait to press her for answers. Deep down, I knew she didn’t have the answers.