“If I look at the mass, I will never act. If I look at the one, I will.” –Mother Teresa

“If I look at the mass, I will never act. If I look at the one, I will.” –Mother Teresa

 

Empathy is something we hear a lot about in pop culture. People often share quizzes or quotes about being an empathy. As much as the word is thrown around in today’s society, I wish it was practiced more.

Empathy is often confused with sympathy but those two emotions are very different. Sympathy is understanding that a person is experiencing a particular emotion. Empathy is feeling that particular emotion alongside the person.

What I pull from Mother Teresa’s words are powerful. We may understand that a particular group of people have a plight and we may recognize they are vulnerable and marginalized but do we truly empathize with them?

Because a group of people are experiencing a shared plight do we somehow believe this diminishes their struggles? Often we view people we disagree with as a group of nameless and faceless people. We see immigrants, African Americans, LBGTQ people, and other marginalized people of society. Because we look at the “mass” we fail to recognize the dignity and inherent worth of the individual person that makes up the “masses”.

Each person has an experience that is different from your own. That experience is as valid as yours. We lose that when we see people as nameless and faceless enemy.

I think the best example of empathy was stated by Jesus Christ. He advised “love one another as yourself”. This means we recognize that the stranger in the mass has a personhood that is separate from my own. I think Jesus was also highlighting that in many ways we can be harder on other people than we are on ourselves.

We understand our intentions. We know where our heart was. Yet we always question the motives of others. We are quick to assume another’s wrong doings and not give the benefit of the doubt. If we loved others as we loved ourselves, we wouldn’t rush t judgment about other people’s motives but give them time to make them known.

By only seeing people as part of a “mass” we maintain that shroud around them, perpetuating a two dimensional understanding of them. We have to recognize that people of all walks want what we all want: our basic physical and psychological needs to be met. When we prevent that we are denying an individual’s personhood. In a fair and free society we validate everyone’s experience while not denying a person’s existence.

We should always keep in mind that behind every issue, political or other, is the “one” that makes up the “mass”. That one is a person who has thoughts, feelings, and perspective on the world.

Empathy is one of those buzz words that is often thrown around in pop culture and it seems very little understand the complexity of the emotion or what it truly means to empathize with another person. Its understanding that we can disagree while recognizing the complexity of the person we disagree with. It’s a way for us to maintain our humanity. It’s something to consider the next time you are faced with the “mass”; consider the “one”.

“Let me not beg for the stilling of my pain, but for the heart to conquer it.” ― Rabindranath Tagore

Tomorrow will mark the first anniversary of the Boston bombing that occurred on April 15th, 2013. Honestly, it feels much longer than a year since that terror attack. Unfortunately these attacks and evil plots seem to becoming common place. We are given daily reminders that the world is often cold and cruel. Acts of terror are littering the twenty four hour news cycle. I take no pleasure in that. However, with each evil plot carried out we quickly are reading and hearing about acts of hope, kindness, and bravery. Those are the things I take solace in. Those are the things I like to retweet, reblog, and share on social media sites. Those stories are constant reminders that the world is a great place to live in. They are a testament to the human spirit.

Instead of focusing my time on the two evil brothers that plotted and orchestrated such calamity I will discuss the stories of hope, fearlessness, and love that exuded that day. Yes, that day is forever marred with the terrible acts of those two young men but the acts of kindness, unselfishness, and benevolence screams louder than what those brothers could have ever done. 

You see the human spirit instinctively wants to fix, help, and solve horrible situations. The following stories highlights all that is right with humanity. We defend. We protect. We love. Those things help us provide meaning to calamity that otherwise would have no meaning at all.

http://www.theguardian.com/world/gallery/2014/apr/14/boston-marathon-bombing-survivors-pictures

The article, from the above link, discusses several of the survivors from that day who had to have a limb amputated. It is true that their lives were forever changed. They can no longer experience life the way the used to.  However each person has something in common. They over came. They are persistent. They did not let the bad guys win. Every single one of these survivors have worked hard to learn how to live with a prosthetic limb and live their life again. Some even plan to run the marathon again. That is winning. That is vanquishing the cowardice that was displayed by those evil brothers a year ago. Picking yourself up from the peril and moving forward. Not letting the evils of this world keep you from living your life. That is what these folks want. Thank God we haven’t let that happen. They have not won. Every day the survivors get up, push, and live a new day the bad guy’s cause dies. Thank God for that. 

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/04/15/heroic-first-responders-a_n_3088369.html

The above link’s article discusses the brave men and women who risked their own lives to save the many people suffering in the streets of the marathon. They are amazing men and women. They are extraordinary people who are combating the effects of the evils in the world. The police, firemen, and paramedics all leaped into action and saved countless lives. They were comforters, mourners, and friends in many of the survivor’s perilous time of need. Not only did first responders help but average citizens did what they could. Doctors, nurses, and others stayed with victims, dragged them to safety, or simply shielded them from debris. These individuals are heroes. They are selfless. They are amazing people. I thank God for their courage, bravery, and honor. May they be remembered as the extraordinary people they are. 

The following link will take you to a site that has images of survivors displaying quotes of strength. Their words are few but profound.

http://ftw.usatoday.com/2014/04/dear-world-boston-marathon-photos/

Image

 

Human nature is flawed. We mess up sometimes. However, we are doing a lot of things right. We as people pull together in times of despair. We defend. We protect. We love. Evil may do everything it can to dominate. People will attempt to cause destruction in their wake. However, as long as we remain like the extraordinary survivors and first responders we will prevail. Good will triumph. I could not have written about the majesty of human nature without the wonderful examples of perseverance of the Boston Marathon survivors. They are all that is right with the world. The anniversary is fresh on my mind and reminded me of the goodness each one of us possess. The survivors and the first responders of the Boston Bombing highlight what humanity is doing right. We persevere. We live. We grow.

We become Boston Strong. 

This in itself is humbling.