“In my view, the best of humanity is in our exercise of empathy and compassion. It’s when we challenge ourselves to walk in the shoes of someone whose pain or plight might seem so different than yours that it’s almost incomprehensible.” Sarah McBride
“True empathy requires that you step outside your own emotions to view things entirely from the perspective of the other person.” Anonymous
In Heartbreaking Moment Perspective #33 I wrote about how the sight of homelessness affects me. A few days ago I had another experience with the sight of homelessness. One of my Facebook friends shared a small portion of a video documentary about Skid Row in Los Angeles, California, watching that video broke my heart. This video literally brought tears to my eyes and it made me realize how much empathy I have for all people, especially those who are less fortunate than I am. I have seen dozens of documentaries on Skid Row, but this one really made me emotional for several days after watching it. Just as I did after seeing the homeless man that I wrote about in perspective #33 I began to question why is it that I am blessed with a nice home, and a comfortable bed to rest my head on at night, but there are so many others who aren’t blessed in the same way. I wonder if I am too empathetic.
I look at the sight of homelessness and I wish that there was something I could do to provide all people with a decent roof over their heads so that there wouldn’t be a need for people to be living in tent cities or simply laying on the street. I realize that some of the people who are living homeless are living that way because of choices they’ve made that ultimately changed their way of life, but even in those cases it still bothers me deeply to see anyone who is living on the street and doesn’t even have a clean bathroom to use. At the time that this video documentary was made there were over 2,000 people living on Skid Row with only a small number of portable toilets that the city government had placed in various areas for all of those people to use. That’s unbelievable to me, I really can not even imagine what it’s like living like that. As the young woman was walking down the street there were people shouting angrily at her and her camera person and I honestly didn’t really understand that. I thought maybe its embarrassment of how they are living, but I’m not sure. After posting perspective #33 I had a conversation with my mother about the many reasons why some homeless people make the choice to live on the street like mentally illness or worrying about being taken advantage of while in shelters or other facilities and I thought what an extremely difficult life it must be. Is it selfish of me to have empathy for homeless people and others who are less fortunate than me, but at the same time be grateful and thankful that hasn’t been God’s plan for my life thus far?
In this world we live in unfortunately there is a down side to having empathy for people who are less fortunate than yourself. I recently saw a news story about a couple who were driving in their city and stopped to help a couple who appeared to be in need, well that wasn’t the case, those people who appeared to be in need of some kindness had malicious intentions and ended up killing a pastor’s wife who empathized with them and only wanted to share some genuine compassion and kindness. That was a heartbreaking story to see as well. It made me think of myself, because I am that person who is quick to empathize with someone who appears to be less fortunate than I am. I probably get that from my mother because she is the same way. Whenever I see someone who appears to not have had a bath or shower in several days and is carrying what seems to be all their worldly possessions I quickly feel sorrowful. We all pass by those people who are carrying handmade signs that say “will work for food” or something similar. The empathizer in me is always quick to have sympathy for those people and want to do something for them, give money, food, anything to make their lives better or take their troubles away for a moment. Sadly we are living in times where my second thought to myself is always, “I wonder if they are legitimately in need?” It’s awfully disheartening realizing that this world has become a place where it’s necessary to second guess having empathy for someone, because being a kind, compassionate, loving empathizer can get you killed.
Who ever closes his ear to the cry of the poor will himself call out and not be answered. Proverbs 21:13ESV
That’s just my perspective!💜