Empathy: Them In Us & Us In Them

Story taken from: “A Clean, Well Lit Place” by Ernest Hemingway at https://www.wlps.org/view/2546.pdf

Two waiters work in a cafe. One is old; another is young with a family. An older customer stays late drinking liquor. The young waiter becomes impatient calling him names behind his back wanting the customer to leave so he could be with his new wife and young children at home.

The older waiter patiently waits for the customer to finish knowing the customer’s home was just like his, dark, empty and vacant. Impatiently the young waiter leaves. The older waiter stays behind with the customer well into the morning. The older waiter had so much patience because he saw himself in the customer.

When we see ourselves in other people’s life and struggles we are able to practice empathy, patience, and care.

To grow in empathy, we put ourselves in another’s shoes and feel with their heart.

We don’t need to grow this first with people whom we don’t know we can first start off with people at home. Perhaps the younger waiter needed to get home to his family because he had empathy for them. Perhaps his attention was toward his family because he knew his family’s struggle and wanted to be there with and for his family.

The older waiter saw the customer as family because he identified with the customer’s struggle. He saw himself in the customer because the customer struggled with insomnia and had no one to go home to just like him.

In order to grow empathy for those close and far away we open our hearts to their experience and see ourselves in them and them in us.

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