Have you ever been pouring your heart out to a friend and had them reply, “I feel you”? The expression is new to me, but I like the way those three words reveal our ability as human beings to understand each other’s emotions. This unique connection can be expressed in many ways – in person with attentive listening, a gentle touch, even delivery of home-cooked meals. Email, social media, and gifts from the garden can also show we care. I was the beneficiary of empathy on a recent international flight. My thoughtful daughter arranged a business class ticket for me because she knows I don’t sleep well on overnight flights. My seatmate was an experienced international business traveler and helped me do things my arthritic hands don’t allow, like wrestling my food tray out of its storage place – very important when you’re hungry! My daughter had also reserved a wheelchair or other airport transportation to take me from Gate 3A to Gate 96A in the large Frankfurt, Germany airport. Time between flights was short, and I didn’t want to undo all the good my knee surgery had done by trying to run all that way. It seemed like the perfect plan, but it hit a snag as soon as we deplaned in Frankfurt. There was no wheelchair waiting for me, and no one at the Help Desk to assist. Even though my seatmate had a flight to catch in the opposite direction, he stayed with me and found someone to help. He stood up for me when an officious employee was rude. After that, everything was resolved quickly. I made my flight and arrived at my destination delighted to see my daughter and grateful that a complete stranger felt my distress and made sure I was safely on my way. As I waved goodbye from my airport ride yelling “Thank you so much!” I realized I didn’t even know his name! All I can do now is pay his compassion and empathy forward to someone else in need of a friend.
I think we all have empathy. We may not have the courage to display it. ~ Maya Angelou