The great gift of human beings is that we have the power of empathy - Meryl Streep
Today at the supermarket I bumped into one of my ex-colleagues. On seeing her, my first reaction was to pretend to be busy shopping in order to avoid talking to her. I know that is not a nice thing to do, but with this lady I have always tried to limit our conversations to work related matters only. However, I am glad that things turned out differently today. Just as I was trying to ignore this lady, she came up to me and greeted me. After exchanging pleasantries, we ended up having a long chat.
I had always thought of her as an insensitive and selfish person. In the past, I have known her to laugh at others’ misfortunes such as someone under depression, someone getting stressed about trying to conceive, someone unable to cope with job pressure so on and so forth. Sometimes I wondered if she laughed as a reflex!
To be fair to her, I think basically she lacked empathy and lacked the ability to step into other person’s shoes and consider how they may be feeling. As a result she used to come off as mean and uncaring.
Surprisingly, today she came off as a nice person. It was good to hear how she had nice things to say about some of our common friends. However, I was sorry to learn of her health issues and that currently she has been going through a particularly difficult phase in her life. This has changed her attitude remarkably and it has placed her in a position where she can truly see what goes on for others.
Sometimes life has a peculiar way of teaching us valuable lessons. Bad things could just happen to anyone and most of the time through no fault of their own. When somebody is in despair, we may not perfectly understand their situation or what they must be going through at that moment (unless of course, we have experienced it ourselves) but certainly, we can be empathetic to them. It takes nothing away from us to show some kindness and compassion, even if it is to someone who we hardly care about otherwise.