Friday, February 26, 2016

Lent #4: Empathy


Today Lynda and I were driving on the highway. She was in the passenger's seat, dozing. I was trying to drive carefully in the right lanes, taking my time. I didn't want to wake her up--she needed the rest. And as I drove along, some driver came zipping along in the lane to my left (probably driving at the posted speed limit or just above).

But I was driving slowly, deliberately, intentionally. Slower and more thoughtfully than I normally do on I-270, coming around the top outer-belt of Columbus. How many times have I made that drive over that particular section of the Interstate, between Highway 315 and Highway 23? Many, many times--back when I was driving from our first home in Hilliard to the office, on many weekends with the kids on the way back from visiting the Zoo. Or maybe on the way back from a Christmas gift hunting expedition. Whatever the reason, I've driven that part of the road on auto-pilot many times.

And I know I've been the person barreling along on someone else's left, while they were driving carefully and intentionally for some other reason. And I've probably gotten frustrated with them for driving too slowly or whatever.

Because I wasn't thinking about them. I was thinking about me.

I encounter people around me every single day. And some of them I know pretty well; my family members, my neighbors, my work colleagues, church members, acquaintances in the grocery store. I see them often. I talk to them. I know the names of their children. And I might have the occasion to help them when they are frustrated or listen to their complaints. Maybe they need advice.

Even with all that . . . I don't know them. Not really. Not even my own family members. So much less do I know the strangers that I pass in the grocery store. Or the driver that is taking their time pulling out of a parking space. Or that couple talking too loud in the restaurant. Or whatever.

I am always trapped inside my own head and blinded by my own problems and concerns.

But if I try to open my eyes and open my heart to the problems of others, I can gain some empathy for the people who are struggling just as much as I am. They have so many of the same problems that keep me up at night--very likely they have many MORE such problems.

May I never forget that everyone around me has problems that are looking for solutions. Maybe I can be that solution for someone else.

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