A few days ago I finished work and went to catch the (newly discovered and more convenient) bus home. As I got on the bus and was doing my usual seat scan, I noticed a woman silently crying into her hands. It wasn’t the first time I’d seen a stranger visibly upset, but today I decided I wasn’t going to ignore it. I decided to sit down next to her and took her hand in mine.
We sat this way for about 20 minutes. I didn’t say a world and neither did she.
As she hopped off the bus she looked me in the eyes and said "thank you", probably the most heartfelt thank you I have ever received. I didn’t need to ask what was wrong and she didn’t need to tell me. A small gesture of compassion was all that was needed.
This got me thinking. She was not the first, and probably won’t be the last, stranger I’ve seen upset and yet why have I never done anything before?
I know I’ve wanted to but we have this barrier that we put up between ourselves. That small gesture did not cost me anything and it meant the world to her. As humans we tend to notice and read when people are upset, happy, angry and if they are strangers we often stand aside, wanting to reach out and encountering this invisible barrier that we can’t push through.
I urge you to start breaking that barrier. Help a stranger in need, rejoice in their happiness and help them to break through their frustration. Maybe when we can learn to use this ability we have called Empathy we can start to improve our surroundings and see more smiles and less struggle.
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