I write almost every day about joyful things - my dogs,
La Dee Dah, one of our dogs - Writers own photo
family, Nature, fine food, fun conversations with other joyful people - life is full of joyful moments! This morning I've been thinking about empathy, and the ways we learn about empathy. For me, the first moment I can easily recall is when I felt sorry for the ants that had been victims of my big brothers exploits that involved an empty matchbox, a large rainwater puddle and left over fire crackers. The captured ants, placed into the matchbox, and set adrift, were unwilling sailors on that lake of doom ...
Big brothers can be strange creatures. This moment wasn't a joyful moment, but remembering the way I felt for the ants, and knowing the others didn't feel for the ants at all, is a joyful thing. Finding small snatches of joy in the knowing that I was kinder, more thoughtful, and showed more empathy than any of the other kids.
I may not have been the only one though who felt like this, perhaps others felt the same, but none of us felt they had the power to speak out against the deed. I feel for those without power, who could do nothing, and I feel for those who did act and suffered for their actions. I feel too, for those people who are unable to see life from a broader view, and are strait-jacketed into constant meanness.
Empathy is a joyful but sometimes painful thing. Seeing the trials and worries of others, understanding within your head and heart what another is going through isnít joyful. The joy can come, though, when and if you can make a connection with that suffering person, give them hope, or ease their pain in some way; this can certainly be a thing of joy, for both you and that other person. Making connections, however fleeting, showing you care, and perhaps acting to alleviate the personís pain, these are joyful things.
A pharaoh hound puppy we bred - Writer's own photo
Empathy is a quiet joy. Itís not like the raucous joy of your team winning a big game, or getting married, or the birth of a new child. Empathy is deep and it brings greater and broad-ranging feelings, beyond self. Empathy is sitting down to listen to a friend who doesnít know what to do next, not saying much, just being there to hear the thought process in action, as the other person considers various possible actions, and decides on their final way to go. Being non-judgemental and supportive helps, even though it may not win the accolades that jumping in and doing big things might. Itís helping the other person to learn resilience, which may be the most life-affirming thing there is!