At the beginning of this year when the our region first experienced freezing temperatures, a situation played out in front of me that reminded me of this Maya Angelou quote and really forced me to take a close look at myself and question my level of empathy. It made me understand why Dr. Phil asks his guests that fail to understand how they come across, to go home and watch back the tape of the show so that they can see themselves and hopefully finally get it.
It was a cold morning and temperatures were set to start dipping even lower in less than an hour as I jumped on bus to my dentist before making my way to work. As the driver stopped to pick up more people from this particular bus stop, we were all surprised at how they acted as they jumped on the bus! They were all holding their noses, cursing and being loud and blatant. When a lady who clearly looked homeless jumped on, it became evidently clear what the fuss was all about!
For all the obvious reasons, she had a strong smell of someone who hadn’t had a shower for quite a while. Without a doubt, it definitely changed the air in the bus. This poor woman seeing how horribly everybody was reacting to her decided to go and seat all the way at the back of the bus and as she made her way to the back, people started jumping from their seats and moving to the front of the bus. A couple of ladies jumped off at the next stop, spitting as they got off, while another lady that sat at the front kept going on and on and cursing until she finally got to where she was going.
As I watched this whole drama play out, it suddenly hit me! What if that was me! How would that make me feel? What if that was one of my loved ones? This was somebody’s mother, daughter, friend, wife or significant other. The way she was treated made me understand why so many homeless people don’t want to go to a shelter even when temperatures become dangerously low. This helped me realize that it really was a small price to pay for a bit of discomfort for the short ride to where I was going so that this poor lady could at least get a few minutes of warmth considering how cold it was outside! We were all going to eventually get somewhere warm but she would still have to go out there and face that brutal cold! I decided that I wasn’t going to hold my nose or take part in making her feel uncomfortable. It only takes one person to give you a bit of hope and I really wanted to be that person for her.
After I got off the bus and started making my way to the dentist, I really questioned my level of empathy. I searched within and asked myself, “Have I treated or even taken part in making another human being feel that bad about themselves?” I knew for sure that I have done so and having watched it all play out in front of me made me realize how terrible it must feel to be treated so horribly! Having said that, I also knew that I couldn’t judge the way people reacted because I know that if God hadn’t opened my eyes and shown me what it must feel like being in that lady’s shoes, I’m sure that I would have reacted the same.
In Luke 10:27 Jesus tells us, “You must love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind; and your neighbor as yourself.” And when He’s asked who our neighbor is, He tells us the parable of the “Good Samaritan” (Luke 10:30-37). It took one person to care about someone that desperately needed help after being ignored and left for dead by people who chose to cross the road and walk on the other side just to avoid helping him. We all have an obligation as a family of God to care for each other and we really need to start living consciously and re-evaluate our level of tolerance and empathy. It feels like the more we evolve the less patience we seem to have.
As we are hit by another snow storm today, my prayer is that sharing my experience will help you search within yourselves and help you understand the importance of tolerance and empathy and that we can all play a part no matter how small to show others that life may have dragged them down to the lowest of low but they all still matter and deserve to be seen and heard and treated with dignity and respect. When we know better, we really need to step up and do better.
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