Empathy

November 3, 2017
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My dad and I had just finished breakfast at Alfreds, a fancy restaurant in Western Washington and our favorite place to stop and have a tasty breakfast. In fact, we were meeting Tammy, a friend my dad used to take college classes with. Almost a year had passed since I had seen her last. It was a particularly good breakfast and there was a lot of coffee drinking, especially on my dad's part. The meal was much more than enough to satisfy our ravenous appetites. It was so over the top that we left with two boxes, stuffed full of meat, eggs and hash browns, as well as other mouthwatering foods people usually enjoy at breakfast places. We left our check on the counter and headed out the door, my dad carrying the leftovers.

 

We parted with our friend as we crossed the parking lot. The two of us hopped into our car, resigned to the fact we would have to endure the bustle of busy roads before we got home. Drowsily, I began to fiddle with a rubix cube. After about thirty seconds I was awake and slightly carsick, too! I set the cube down just as the car stopped in front of a red light.


I noticed a man sitting on the sidewalk. I was not surprised, as the area we were in was populated by many poor people entrenched in poverty, affected by a range of things, from addiction to misfortune. He was just sitting there, with a sign saying, "Homeless and cold". The man was probably grimly awaiting another day of inevitable gloom. He was skinny, with an unkempt beard. He was most likely 40 or 50 years old, but looked more. Huddled up on the sidewalk, I could see the multiple layers he was wearing, with an old looking hoody as the top layer. He also had a sheet of plastic for when it rained and a backpack, most likely holding his few possessions. As I looked at him, I considered how terrible it must be to sit under the melancholy sky and in the chilly air. He must be miserable when it rains, I thought to myself.


It seemed that I was not the only one to notice the man. The front seats were in almost perfect line with him and my dad was also looking at the man. What truly brought me out of my deep state of thought was the sound of the windows opening. As the bustle of the street came to me, so did the city smells. It's one of those things you're exposed to so much it becomes natural. When the window was down, the homeless man peered at us hopefully. His eyes seemed to bear a thousand sorrows. My dad said simply said, "Here you go," and handed over our bag of food.


"God bless you! Thank you so much," the man said, in a deep voice. Just the thankfulness in his facial expressions and eyes was twice as rewarding as the words. Those eyes that had seemed to be filled with sorrow had suddenly thrown off their sullen cloak and rejoiced.


Even more heart warming is what happened next. Immediately after his thanks, the man turned and walked across the street. Just then, my dad and I noticed another person that seemed in equally bad shape. There were obviously some words exchanged between the two men, although we couldn't hear. In the moment following, several things happened. The two strangers each took a box. The attitude change from despair to joy seemed tangible. Then the car began to move, the window was rolled up and we were on our way.


Later that day, I thought about the generosity and kindness it must have took for someone so hungry to give half of what he received the instant after he received it. Afterwards my dad told me that the reason for what he did was empathy. Despite the fact hunger is a constant thing in the homeless man’s life, he thinks of the others who face the same trials as him. Up to this day, it still amazes me. A man who is starving and chilled to the bone can instantly think of the person next to him and decide to give to them.






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