My heart has hurt for the hurting as far back as I can remember. When you are created like that it can be a blessing or curse, depending on how and where you take it. I went through some tough lessons before I was capable of helping the hurting without being consumed by the hurt. It is sufficed to say, God knows what He is doing in His time. Part I of this little exercise in empathy held three challenges, followed by a question; here they are again, followed by a few reader responses:
- In your next conversation with a loved one, attempt to keep count of non-verbals. Were you able to stay focused on what was being said?
I could not keep count. I was trying to stay focused on what was being said!
- Devote a chunk of time to sit and stare at four walls, preferably white walls. How long did you sit there before you felt compelled to get up and move on?
No more than 5 minutes; more like 4. It was a struggle after 2 minutes!
- Over the course of a typical day or two, how many times do you venture outside? Best guess: in and out of your car, to grab the mail, the places you go.
16 times if I counted right but it was probably more since I went to some places more than once.
This simple exercise revealed some profound insights. #1: Distracted listening does not bring good results. You are either present or you are not. #2: Four (white) walls close in rather quickly; moving about alleviates restlessness and boredom. #3: Being able to go where you want, when you want, how you want … do not take such everyday things for granted.
How can you use these results to expand compassionate action within your family and community?
Do not take #1, #2, or #3 for granted.
Listen with your ears and eyes – the non-verbals mean something too. Bring back the art of conversation while you still can.
Change the scenery – your heart, mind and soul depend on it. Do not be bound by four walls. When you venture out to grab the mail or go someplace, take note. Thank God that you can get out and about.
Go be with someone who is hungry for conversation. Someone who stares at four walls for more hours than you can fathom. Someone who cannot even venture outside, without help. Take 10 for a hug or a stroll; take an hour to break bread … compassion ripples beyond the confines of time. Imagine the difference an “army of angels” could make in this hurting world.
Too often, I hear that caregivers feel isolated from the community, and even from family and friends. I also hear from those watching – they struggle to know how and when to help. I encourage you to create a caring bridge. I did. “In times of need, the greatest source of hope and healing is the love of family and friends.” Invite them into your difficult journey. You can share notes, photos, stories, ideas for visits, wish lists, events, and more at caringbridge.org (your page can be public or private to share with those you wish).
Expand compassionate action within your family and community. Let us create “an army of angels” to bless families along the way. Jonny Imerman has a story that is a perfect example. He created Imerman Angels so no one would have to face cancer alone. You can join his “army” too.
A little exercise in empathy can go a long way, in whatever battle you are facing. “Give me your eyes… Lord give me your eyes so I can see.”