SUSTAINING EMPATHY

 

Whenever we witness an injustice, a feeling wells up inside of us. For some, it is fear. “I too, a Black man, jog in a Suburban area so this hits close to home.” For some, it is anger. “We’re literally hunted down everyday/everytime we step foot outside the comfort of our homes.” For some others, it’s sadness. “He didn’t deserve that. No one deserves that.” For some, it’s a complex mix of all three emotions and perhaps, more. By now, you’ve probably heard about the killing of Ahmaud Arbrey, a 25 year-old man, months shy of his 26th, who was gunned down by a father-son duo in Georgia. While we were all still trying to process that, news about the killing of Breonna Taylor, a Black woman who was shot in her home after police searching for a suspect broke into the wrong home, was brought to light. I cannot imagine what their families have been going through for the past few months and I pray that God grants them comfort, healing and justice. 

It’s a lot. Not just in terms of mere numbers-because the numbers are indeed startling, but in terms of the feeling of heaviness that these non-fictive stories of injustice arouse. When you hear about these stories, think about them, or even attempt to write about them, strong emotions rise to the surface and you are faced with the option to confront them. What do you do? A lot of you channel these emotions to action and the world is better for it. 

I remember a few years ago, arriving frantically at Euston station, desperate to catch a train that I thought I was going to miss. I feel like I’ve written about being late to the station before or a tale of its kindred, and you’re probably wondering why I’m always late to the station. Honestly, I wonder as well. Anyways, the cab driver dropped me off and sped off and I was left on the side of the road with my travel tote, a valise and a very heavy suitcase. I was trying to force the suitcase up the stairs when I felt someone’s eyes on me. There was a homeless man sitting not too far from the steps and he was giving me signals with his eyes, trying to cheer me on as I battled with my luggage. When he saw that his cheerleading was not effective, he quickly ran to my aid, and together, we carried my suitcase until it was on the platform.  As he helped me, I noticed his Mcdonalds cup which contained spare change from kind passersby. He had abandoned it. I was so moved. He did not think of himself first like he could and really, should have. More importantly, upon seeing me in need of some assistance, he did not look away. 

I did attempt to repay that man’s kindness that day but I know I can never repay him for the lesson he taught me about having the heart to not just look away. Admittedly, this story is trivial and simplistic when compared to the matter at hand. Yet, I hope it serves as a basic analogy of how we help solve problems when we show empathy. We heard of Arbrey’s murder, we reacted and following our reaction, his killers were arrested. MLK said that our lives begin to end the day we become silent about the things that matter; I pray we are never silent. In life in general, when we witness or hear of a situation where we can do something to help, what do we do? I know it gets a lot, as I said earlier on, but I pray we never get tired of leading with empathy and turning that empathy into action. 

P.S If you’re a believer, please take a minute to pray for victims of injustice and their families; prayer is a form of action too.

Instagram: @mycandleculture 

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