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Posts Tagged ‘#empathy’

I stood there, unable to move my eyes from what was happening in front of me.

She wet the facecloth with warm water, then, ever so gently dabbed his forehead, his cheeks, chin, nose, mouth and eyes. With the tenderest of care of care, her hands guided the dampened cloth, slowly, gingerly over his face. It was as if I was watching the work of a master … no,

it was as if I was watching her wipe the face of her own father.

The expert, compassionate act I viewed stopped me where I was standing, for I had entered a time and place of holiness, beauty and honor.

In my seventy-six hours of final vigil with my dad, this was one of the most tender moments … and it was performed by a stranger, a nurse, paid to do a task, but who took it beyond job description, she performed an act of tenderness as I have never witnessed before. And I will forever be changed because of it.

The tenderness and compassion with which she worked … the respect and dignity that she blessed my comatose father with also blessed me. I was treated to an act of a master at her job, one who did more than was expected of her.

I was reminded of the story of the death of Lazarus as I watched this beautiful kindness.

Lazarus had died, already in the tomb for four days. Jesus said he was going to “wake him” from his death sleep.

When Jesus (and the disciples) got there, he saw Mary and Martha weeping, filled with sorrow over the loss of their brother.

“When Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who had come along with her also weeping, he was deeply moved in spirit and troubled. “Where have you laid him?” he asked.
“Come and see, Lord,” they replied.
Jesus wept.
Then the Jews said, “See how he loved him!””
(John 11:33-36)

This is a similar picture of tenderness and compassion. Jesus knew that he would raise the dead Lazarus from the grave. But, his tears were not over Lazarus’ death, they were tears of compassion for the sorrow and heartache that Mary and Martha were experiencing. He wept with empathy, responding with love and gentleness.

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I sat across a table listened to her share her horrific, childhood-stealing moments of her life. Her words, spoken clearly, as though recounting every detail in her mind’s eye … as though walking through each and every event, as though a part of her was that awkward adolescent, hurting all over again.

After she recounted her story, for over two of the fastest moving hours of my life, she looked into my eyes and said, “thank-you for listening to my story. Next time, I want to hear yours, because I think you have a story to tell too.

I smiled, for she was right and because she knew what I know …

the pain in our own lives awakens our subconscious to the pain that others try to hide.

Recently I was watching a clip from the BBC’s A Royal Team Talk, and a statement by Prince William caught my full attention:

“It (bereavement) also brings you so close to all those other people out there who have been bereaved. So instantly, when you talk to someone else … You can almost see it in their eyes sometimes.”

As I digested his words, I realized that ‘bereavement’ could be replaced by the word ‘pain’ or ‘trauma’ … words that signify an injury, a mental or emotional bruising that can only be seen by eyes, by souls who recognize it … mirrored through their own lives and experiences.

Psalm 56:8 gives us insight into the understanding God has of our pain, trauma and grief:

“You number my wanderings.
You put my tears into your bottle.
Aren’t they in your book?”

Ellicott’s Commentary speaks of this verse:

wandering, which, from the parallelism with “tears,” must mean “mental restlessness,” the “tossings to and fro of the mind,” “my inmost things.”

The pain a person carries is a most mentally restless scar … one that is worn, quite often, under a broad smile. It takes an understanding, a knowledge that such pain can, that it does exist for it to be seen beneath the bandage of a cosmetic smile.

It is quite amazing when another crosses our path, who really sees, who clearly sees what lies beneath the joy on our faces.

God sees … he sees the pain and grief because he knows pain and grief, because he has collected our tears, even the ones that never left our eyes.

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As I walk through the high school I work in I pass dozens (hundreds) of faces each day. When I am cognizant, when I am not so wrapped up in my own thoughts, I see the faces more clearly.

I see the big smiles, the laughter, I see the eyes that resist making contact, the faces that are hidden by their downward stare, the eyes that look right through me …

and I wonder, what is their story? what are they dealing with?

During these times when I am alert to those who pass by in the hallways, I am reminded of how significant the insignificant can be, for those who might have a story that is hard, heavy.

To step aside, so they can pass, to hold a door, to smile, to say good morning, to pick up the pencil that fell from their laden arms …

these are the wordless ways we can whisper to another,

you matter

someone cares

someone notices

someone has empathy for you

In Romans 12:15, Paul reminds of a profound teaching, that we are all expected to practise:

“Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep” 

We are to not just co-exist with one another, but we are to share life together. We are not just to share life together, but we are to experience, to feel the joys and struggles of each other.

empathy

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