If You Could Stand in Someone Else’s Shoes, Would You Treat Them Differently?

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“Could a greater miracle take place than for us to look through each

other’s eyes for an instant?”

Henry David Thoreau

A few years ago, I was at the deli counter at the local Shoprite supermarket waiting to order lunchmeat. The woman behind the counter apparently was asking me what I wanted but I didn’t hear her.  A stranger to my right gently tapped me on the shoulder and pointed to the supermarket employee.  I turned and said, “Oh, I’m sorry.”

Although I was expecting the woman behind the counter to say, “That’s OK” and take my order, the employee had a huge smirk on her face and was giggling as though I had five heads.  I guess her perception was that I was some kind of an idiot.  I don’t know.

It was so obvious that this woman was mocking me that the stranger next to me put a reassuring hand on my shoulder and said, “People can be so cruel.”  I looked back at her, smiled and loudly replied, “Yes, I know. I’m hearing impaired!” Hearing our conversation, the Shoprite employee stood there open-mouthed and the stranger now reached over to give me a much-appreciated hug.   She then glared at the Shoprite employee, turned back to me and said, “I work with people with special needs.  God bless you.  Always hold your head up high.”

Looking back, I have no hard feelings.  I am very grateful for that experience because of the kindness given to me by that beautiful stranger.  I also know that had the Shoprite employee known that I was hearing impaired she would not have been so rude.  I’m not making excuses for her; I’m simply saying had she been in my shoes, her reaction would have been different.

When I graduated from college, I grew increasingly frustrated by my inability to find a job in journalism.  I remember writing a letter to the March of Dimes talking about the changes I felt needed to be made within the disabled community.   This is a nonprofit organization which acts globally sharing the best practices in perinatal health and helping when things go wrong.  In my letter, I wrote, “Empathy not sympathy yields understanding.”  My feeling, simply stated, was that I was not looking for people to feel sorry for me or have sympathy for me.  Instead, I wanted people to empathize with me or put themselves if only for one moment in my shoes.

My friend Cindy posted the video below entitled, “If You Could See Inside Other People’s Hearts,” on Facebook.  Watching it immediately took me back to many times in my life when I was ridiculed or treated unfairly.  But it was also a reminder to me of my feelings long ago.  If people could just empathize with others, we would be living in a much different world.

Empathy is a word that has many different meanings.  They range from recognizing and experiencing the emotions and feelings of others to having the desire to help others.  Empathy, however, does not mean feeling sorry for another person.  It does not mean taking pity on someone else’s situation.  When you have empathy for someone, you want to help because you understand what they are going through.  There is a difference.

As noted in my experience at the local Shoprite, things are not always what they seem.  If we could all see things for what they really and truly were and not for what they seem, we would all show empathetic compassion beyond measure. We would all realize that no one is better than another.  Rather we are all one.

The video below asks, “If you could stand in some else’s shoes….

Hear what they hear….

See what they see….

Feel what they feel….

Would you treat them differently?”

Think about it.  No doubt, your answer is yes.

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