The other day I walked into my local Starbucks and began talking to this young Latino barista. She’s maybe the friendliest of the ones that work there. (I might add that I am an older white guy.)
I asked her how she was doing. She replied, “I am recuperating.”
I asked, “From what?”.
She explained that she had been off work for a while.
“I’ve been taking care of my father who has Alzheimer’s for two years. The stress got to me. Then, I was hospitalized from my pedestrian-vehicle accident.”
She told me she was walking and got hit by a car. Everybody has a story I guess but a lot don’t have this sad combination.
When a friend of mine posted on Instagram the old adage, “Everyone you meet is fighting a battle you know nothing about-be kind”, I replied with her story. My friend responded by saying, “Empathy in action. Great story brother. Thank you for sharing it. You may have been like an angel to her that day just in how you showed that you care.”
My interaction with the barista was not an accident. I learned from the teachings of author and coach Brendon Burchard about using “triggers” to influence my surroundings. One he calls a “door” trigger. As you walk in the door of a place you ask yourself how you can be of benefit there.
In the current toxic environment in the US, such empathy is needed. Thankfully, there are folks out there trying to promote it.
For instance, one local group called Walk the Ridge is seeking to encourage civility and respect among people with different opinions. Another example, is author and researcher Brene’ Brown, who has written book about belonging.
One of the problems she outlines is that we’re so broken up into camps in the US that we aren’t willing to break out and be who we really are among folks on the other side. Brown encourages people to “brave the wilderness” (which is the title of her work) and first and foremost belong to ourselves.
If you pay attention to the media it seems we Americans are more into putting people down than showing respect. Even though I believe that like a lot of other hype from that source, the problem is overblown, the issue needs to be addressed.
In a chapter called “Holding Hands with Strangers”, Brown makes the case that one reason we should be civil and respect one another is because we all have a spiritual connection due to all being part of the human family.
As much of the world is tuned into the World Cup, at least outside MY country, I would be remiss if I didn’t mention that one of her examples of overcoming division is the respect garnered for Liverpool fans in Australia when a whole stadium full of them sang the club’s anthem, “You’ll Never Walk Alone.” These thousands of people showed what Brown calls “collective joy”.
While I get her drift, I notice when watching the YouTube video that no one is holding hands among the 95,000 people in that stadium. Most of them seem to be using their hands to stretch out banners.
Of course, one of the most famous songs of all time about that subject is the Beatles song “I Want to Hold Your Hand.” Here’s an excerpt:
Oh please say to me
You’ll let me be your man
And please say to me
You’ll let me hold your hand
Those lyrics are pretty shallow. In fact, one theory is that such songs of that era, ones in which there was whining about not being loved, spawned the 60s hit “Somebody to Love” in reaction, most notably covered by Jefferson Airplane, featuring Grace Slick. Her husband Darby wrote these lyrics excerpted from the song:
When the truth is found to be lies
And all the joy within you dies
Don’t you want somebody to love
Don’t you need somebody to love
Wouldn’t you love somebody to love
You better find somebody to love
In her autiobiography Grace Slick said the song is not sexual in nature but has more to do with practically serving others with a heart of concern for their welfare. She wrote:
“Rather than the loving you’re whining about getting or not getting, a more satisfying state of heart might be the loving you’re ‘giving’. Suggesting that adhering to the old Puritan cliche, ‘It’s better to give than to receive’, might actually make you a happier person. The idea of service and selflessness may sound like a tedious task reserved for bald monks, but the way Darby wrote the lyrics, altruism didn’t seem like such a lofty and unattainable state. He gave the impression that giving could even be an enjoyable adventure.”
I thought today that having an inner focus on someone else is a healing potion. It takes the mind off of my own emotional pain. I would imagine that a lot of heartache comes not so much from not being loved, but in not having someone to love.
I have concluded that I can’t love everyone, but I can love some. I also have determined that I can at least respect all people because they are created in the image of God.
While in some ways I can generate this love and respect, I can’t really manufacture it completely on my own. I need a power I don’t have to do it fully.
Any capacity I have to care for others effectively really comes from God. In fact, the God-Man Jesus is truly the only Person who perfectly loved and respected others.
Although He is God, He also is fully human. He lived 33 years down here, where he experienced all the toxicity of mankind as we have, but without sin.
As one who has received Him and trusted in Him to deliver me from my selfish sinfulness, I believe what the Bible says about Jesus dwelling in my heart.
He can empathize with people’s weaknesses and struggles through me. Living in my heart, Jesus can use me to show the same concern He has to those in my sphere.