Kat Lane- Empathy Intervention

For this intervention, I thought about how I could implement empathy in a particularly uncomfortable way for myself. I walk to and from school every day past one homeless man who lives on California next to the train tracks. He is typically asleep, and when he isn’t, he is staring, blankly, at passing cars. This is a painful thing to see every day. But we see so many painful things every day that we are grow desensitized to them. Whether we’re talking about daily confrontation with homelessness or it being morally easy to eat factory farmed meat because consumers are so disconnected from the suffering of animals, it is always easier to look away. This week, I tried very hard not to. Empathizing with the homeless: huge cliche. But here we go. Every time I walked by, I intentionally noticed what this man was doing (or not doing), and tried to imagine myself in that exact situation, in that exact time of day. 3:30 pm on a hot Tuesday, asleep fully clothed. 11:00 AM on Wednesday, sitting on the sidewalk staring at cars. 7:30 PM on Wednesday, asleep in a sleeping bag. What struck me most as I walked by each day was the boredom of his situation. His homelessness puts him under an immense amount of stress, but also prevents him from engaging with the world in a meaningful way. When I thought about the amount of “stress” I am under on a daily basis, it is because of all the opportunities I am lucky enough to have. I am fortunate to fill my days with activities that I am passionate about and engagement with other people. Interestingly, trying to empathize with this man made other types of suffering feel… smaller? I guess I gained some perspective on the vast variation in human experience even on my own block.

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