Empathy Intervention – Jess MacMillan

I thought a lot about this intervention, because I typically don’t ‘otherize’ people. I am fairly well traveled and having a lot of experience with people of other cultures which gives me a new level of empathy that some people can’t understand. This being said, I find that I have significantly less empathy for people in the United States. I find that because I have seen so much pain and hurt in the world, I struggle to empathize with people who have seemingly insignificant problems. 

For this intervention, I wanted to write about one of these issues that stuck out to me. Last year, I lived down the street from a woman, and our whole street was not permitted. There was only parking on one side of the road, so parking would get a little tight sometimes. If me or my roommates ever parked in front of her house, we would surely be greeted with a note on our car saying “Don’t park in front of my house!”. We would bolster each others frustrations and build up the anger towards this woman that we had never met. She put a sign up on a tree that read “Do not park past this tree.” As much as I tried to be respectful of her, sometimes I didn’t have a choice as there were no other open spots. 

It wasn’t until this quarter that I had ever really though about her side of the story. I would be frustrated too if there were always students parking in front of my house. Sure, it is public parking and anyone can park there, but there are students that abuse that and park there just to walk to school even though they don’t live in that neighborhood. It was really convicting to think about the lack of empathy I had for that woman and how I added to the problem. It was a really enlightening experience too because it helped me a lot this year to have empathy for my neighbors and think about their situation. Even though they aren’t starving to death in Africa, it doesn’t make their frustration insignificant. It is just different. People use the phrase ‘first world problems’, which is to make fun of people who worry about insignificant things, but at the root of it, they are still problems and affecting another human being. I think that is the most important thing that I took away from this intervention. People have problems, while I may not understand or identity with them, who am I to put that person down or not empathize with something that they are struggling with. 

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