Are you practicing empathy during these interesting times or is it each man for himself?
So… what is the definition of empathy?
According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, it is…
Definition of empathy
The action of understanding, being aware of, being sensitive to, and vicariously experiencing the feelings, thoughts, and experience of another of either the past or present without having the feelings, thoughts, and experience fully communicated in an objectively explicit manner
The Oxford dictionary puts it a little more succinct
The ability to understand and share the feelings of another.
The reason I am asking and exploring the question is that in having conversations with people in different parts of the world including businesses, online and local communities and family and friends I have come across a variety of different views.
Now, none of these views are right or wrong but is each person or society’s position on the subject according to their values, information received from outside sources and basically their own personal take on the situation.
This can apply to any situation, but in this particular case, we are talking about the pandemic that is affecting the world in the shape of the Coronavirus (Covid-19).
Let’s be clear… this is not about promoting fear or aggravating the situation in any way shape or form. You can get all the information you need at the World Health Organization or your local news station.
But questions come up and thoughts emerge and I thought I would share some of mine.
These are based on the information, personal values and communication with others.
A couple of starting off points for me as I’ve always had an inquiring mind.
First: I’ve always been fascinated by the fact that everyone in the world has agreed to drive on their own side of the road.
Whatever country you’re in or what side you drive on we have a global understanding that if we cross the white line we will harm ourselves or others and we collectively choose to stay on our own side.
I marvel whenever I go out driving and cars are whizzing by at 80 km that I’ve made the decision to stay on one side and with just a little white line dividing us others have chosen to stay on the other. When you think about it, it really is amazing.
Second: I’ve always wondered how I would react in times of a great crisis like an ice age, nuclear meltdown or some horrific situation that affected the whole world.
Would I hoard my food and water and keep the shotgun ready in case of invaders letting others die in order that I might live?
Would I open my gates, share everything until it was gone and then we all die a little earlier?
Would I take the moderate path and give to those that arrived at my doorstep in need but don’t spread it around?
Never been faced with this situation it’s always been a moral question and one which I never have to answer.
But… being faced with a global pandemic makes one take a bit of a different view on life.
Being a bit of a private and dare I say an introverted person I work from home and don’t feel the need to be a social butterfly at this point in time. So… whether I get sick or not will not affect a lot of people.
It might mean Rob would have to self isolate himself for 14 days, and my to-do list would get a few things ticked off.
Rob might go a little stir crazy as he’s definitely an extravert but he can always keep in touch with people via the phone.
We are also well-stocked in the food department as I do home canning and dehydrate produce from the garden and the freezers are full.
The garden has swiss chard, kale, leeks, parsnips and carrots still growing from last year, so our basic needs are covered.
Toilet paper… yes we have it. But no more than what we would regularly have on hand.
So basically I would have to say that just living our normal lives we would be considered very well able to deal with any situation that comes our way.
But, I realize we are very fortunate and a lot of people live very differently, especially those that live in cities.
In cities, a lot of people live on the streets.
Not saying that they are street people but their business and social interactions are done in office buildings, coffee shops, restaurants and other gathering places.
In cases like that I wonder, how are people coping and helping themselves and others.
In Italy where people have had self-isolation imposed upon them, they too have choices.
Do they sneak next door to visit the neighbour or do like some cities have and throw open their windows and sing?
People everywhere are worried about finances, losing their jobs, their businesses and their livelihoods.
What about those that don’t have the means to take care of themselves?
What about those that now have kids at home with nobody to take care of them?
What about those that lose loved ones?
It seems like an insurmountable task to take on and I don’t know where or how to start but as an empath myself I can understand and relate to the worries and fears that are happening all around us.
It’s not a matter of taking on the weight of the world but realizing that things are changing and what are the steps that I can do to support others at this time.
I was listening to a show that had Dr. Sanjay Gupta on it and you can find all about his background here.
He is also putting out a podcast called Coronavirus: Fact vs Fiction with everything you wanted to know especially in the way it impacts our daily lives.
While I was listening to him he said 2 things that stuck with me.
1 – Risk vs pleasure.
What he was saying was it’s time to evaluate what and how we do things.
Do you go out to a crowded restaurant for an hour or so, knowing that you will be exposed to numerous people that may or may not be sick or carriers of the virus or do you stay home in relative safety?
The answer for each person might be different.
Some may think that a nice meal spent with family, friends or a loved one is worth the risk and for others, the risk overshadows the pleasure.
As I said before, neither option is right or wrong. We are just making a choice based on the information that we have.
2 – Kindness and Trust
The other thing he said was now is a time in the world to be kind to one another.
Knowing that your actions not only have an impact on yourself but all the people around you.
We are trusting that the person in front of us is washing their hands regularly, self-isolating if necessary and following guidelines set out by The World Health Association to keep the majority of the population safe.
We are being kind by staying on our own side of the road and trusting that the person next to us is driving in their own lane.
In these interesting times being empathic doesn’t mean I have to take on all the sorrows, fears and sickness of others, but to realize that they exist and assist in any way I possibly can while keeping myself and family safe.
Because in a case like we are experiencing now, no matter how much I want to believe my actions don’t affect others they do!
I know for myself that if I unwittingly was sick and went out and infected someone who was at risk or got the virus because of me I would have a hard time living with my choice.
All I know is that right here, right now in this moment of time I take a deep breath and stay on my side of the road.
Agree or disagree… leave your comments below and pass it on.
In the meantime, I’ll leave you with some inspiration. Turn up your speakers and sing along.