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Happiness and love never decrease by being shared.

I Am Real

Nothing makes someone more human than empathy.

Empathy is the ability to understand and share the feelings on another person. Different from sympathy, a feeling of pity or sorrow for another’s misfortune, empathy allows us to look deep into the souls of those who are different from us and connect with them on an emotional level of respect and compassion.

As my Creative Writing teacher in high school told me, empathy is the greatest tool for a writer to have. Similarly, this past week at the Golden Globes, Meryl Streep spoke about how empathy is a vital characteristic for actors, as it allows them to enter the lives of different characters and portray them to an audience. I have had many lessons in empathy in my life. In fact, we all have, though only some of us choose to learn from them.

Everyone has experienced, to some extent, the myriad of emotions humans are capable of feeling, therefore, we all have the potential for empathy. We have experienced sadness, heartbreak, grief, guilt, humility, depression, feelings of insignificance, and moments of hopelessness. Each emotion and experience is an invaluable possession we as humans possess because they are the keys we have to unlock empathy. When we look upon someone less fortunate than ourselves, we must remember our emotions: the building blocks of our humanity. When we see a homeless person on the side of the street we must stop and pay attention to them. We must not ignore our human tendency to compassion and ignore their circumstance because we could be like them someday, or, if our lives had gone differently, that may have been us.

As a society we must stop looking down upon the most vulnerable people among us as there is no honor or virtue in demonizing the poor, the homeless, the disabled, or those different from us. The lack of wealth, a place to call home, or a fully abled body or mind do not diminish one’s worth as a human and it should not give people an excuse to disrespect them.

This takes me back to Meryl Streep's speech at the Golden Globes, which, by now, you may have already heard about (if you have not, I suggest you listen to it yourself, as it offers a great perspective on life and empathy). Ms. Streep reflects on a moment from the past year which has haunted her to this day. It is one which has haunted me as well, as it is one in which a future leader of ours did a most despicable, disgusting, embarrassing, and inhumane thing.

As Streep describes it, “It was that moment, when the person asking to sit in the most respected seat in our country imitated a disabled reporter. Someone he outranked in in privilege, power, and the capacity to fight back.” And, as I see it now, it was in that moment, and the many moments following, that our society turned its back on its morals. A few months later, after an unbreakable sense of disregard for compassion poisoned the air of our society, a disturbing message was sent to everyone willing, and even unwilling, to listen. Some among us decided that we would reward bullying, mockery, abuse of power, and lack of morality.

It has been a while since that moment and those which followed but I have not forgotten and I beg you not to either. I have little hope for the person who committed this deplorable act, as it clear they shows no remorse for their lack of empathy, but for us as a society, I am hopeful we can move forward and act more compassionately in the future.

One of my resolutions for the new year is to be thankful for all the things that I have. Every morning, whether I have a rough day of class ahead of me or whether I have a fun day planned with friends and family, I want to think from place of thankfulness. Some of the negativity in my life is unfortunate, of course, but it is nothing I cannot handle. I am blessed with a life in which I am not troubled with having to worry about where I am going to sleep, where I am going to get my next meal, or whether or not a disability or mental illness will get in the way of my happiness.

So many of us are blessed with a life such as this and we should not abuse our position by mistreating those less fortunate than ourselves. We should not allow this deplorable instinct to humiliate and demonize others filter down from the detestable source in which it comes from. If we all approach every day, every hardship, and every person with this perspective, I am sure we as a society will not allow hate spread any further than it already has. We must never forget that any society and any nation is judged on the basis of how it treats its weakest members -- the last, the least, the littlest.

If ever you should feel yourself waver in your sense of empathy, remember that thousands of candles can be lit from a single candle, and the life of the single candle will not be shortened.

Happiness and love never decrease by being shared.

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This article has not been reviewed by Odyssey HQ and solely reflects the ideas and opinions of the creator.
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