I feel connected, painfully so at times, to people I don’t know, like the thousands of water-abused Charleston, WV citizens, or the folks downriver from the latest—but not last—enviro-disaster on the border of NC and VA, those poisoned by the wanton release of highly toxic coal ash on the Dan River; or the millions of invisible homeless kids and adults, some of whom I’ve encountered through my HEAR US journeys, many more I’ve not. I could go on and on and on….
What good does it do to connect mentally with the suffering of others?
For me, such connections can lead to my development of empathy, a trait cleverly presented in this short, delightful KarmaTube video.
Such connections keep us, well, connected, rather than isolated and smug. Empathy, much better than sympathy, requires work, as I’m reminded of all too often.
My shower-meditation is one way I exercise my heart. I try to become micro-aware of a few common things in my daily routine and mentally connect with the people responsible—the person in the (likely) sweatshop who sewed my jeans, the farmworker who picked the mangoes I enjoy, the steelworker who processed the stainless steel that became my coffee pot.
The ills of our modern world can topple even the hardiest soul. My work over the years with homeless families, youth, and single adults has, I hope, ground down the nastiest parts of my personality, leaving a coarse, but improving, sense of compassion, or so I’d like to think. Listening. Seeing. Weeping. Laughing. Fuming. Writing. Filming. Photographing. Thinking. Never enough. But if it’s all I can do, I’ll do it.
As I shove off from a working “sabbatical” spent with my wheels parked for most of the past 3 months, I know I’ll be immersed in the equivalent of toxic ash spills. My mettle will be tested. I will massage my empathic abilities. I will aim my outrage at injustice to those who disregard the humanity of the have-nots.
I know we as society can, and must, do better. But that boils down to me. I must do better. With the steady drip, drip, drip of compassion from deep within, I’ll connect with those in my path, doing whatever I can to ease the injustice of poverty. That’s my plan.