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How Nearly Getting Run Over Reminded Me Of Empathy

Learning to change our mindset during the CoronaVirus (COVID-19) threat.

Yesterday morning as I walked out of my gym and was about to walk into a grocery store, a van driver tried to run me over. He was stopped when I decided to cross in front of his van to walk into the store. All of a sudden, he accelerated towards me at a very high speed and I impulsively extended my arm like I was going to be able to stop him. He did abruptly brake an arm’s length away from me. And as I shakingly walked around his van, he rolled down his window and I asked him (rather calmly) “What were you doing?”. I wanted to give him the benefit of the doubt that maybe he had been distracted, even though we had made complete eye contact before I decided to cross the street. He looked sternly at me and said: “I am doing what you did to me”. Honestly, I have no idea what that meant as we hadn’t even been in the same lanes of the parking lot, and then he quickly sped away. I looked at the couple that had seen the whole encounter and asked them if they had seen me do anything to him? They said they hadn’t and then asked me if I was okay. They went on to apologize for his behavior and said I should ignore him. As I walked into the store with tear-filled eyes and shaking hands and legs, I couldn’t quite comprehend what had just happened except I knew my reaction was exactly his intention.

At first, I was not just shaken but also very upset at the man. But as I cried through the aisles of the store and calmed myself down, I wondered what was going on in his life for him to behave that way. My thoughts of anger turned into feeling bad for him. With so much uneasiness and anxiety around all of us, I wondered if he had just lost his job? or a loved one or maybe even was close to retirement and had lost all his savings because of the stock market crash this week. Maybe it was none of the above, but it made me take a step back and think.

The minute I changed my thoughts, my perspective changed. I felt more empathy towards him and wished him well as to whatever he was struggling with. There’s a great quick 2-minute video by Brené Brown if you truly want to understand empathy: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1Evwgu369Jw

Empathy helped me step back and reminded me that his action probably had nothing to do with me.

We have to remind ourselves that their actions or behavior are not because of something we did but of a reflection of their own inner battles. Their past or even current experiences/hurt/pain are making them be that person. We have to learn to differentiate the two.

With all this growing uneasiness and difficult decisions that are coming our way from finances to resources, we as a world are all scared. We are worried about ourselves and our loved ones. This type of uncertainty of the unknown is new for a lot of us and unfortunately, all this will get worse before it gets better. We are reacting and coming from a place of fear. These fears are real but we have to try and not let them overtake our actions and our thoughts.

We may be able to control our thoughts and fears but for others, it may be one of the toughest times in their lives. They may be giving in to their fears and reacting to it. They may be alone, they may be scared as to where all of this is headed, maybe they just need a hug but all this social distancing is making it impossible.

It’s so easy to fall into the path of judgment but we have to separate ourselves from those thoughts and come from a place of positivity.

During these times we need to come together as a community and help lift each other up through love and patience. We have to do our bit to be understanding, empathetic and compassionate no matter how hard it is for us or how someone else treats us. It is easy to love and be kind to people that love us. It’s much harder to be kind to people that are mean to us and sometimes those are the ones that need it the most.

Empathy is more than just understanding what it’s like to walk in someone’s shoes, its actually putting on those shoes and walking in them.

In the coming days, let’s climb together as humans and communities and help build each other up no matter how hard it gets for us. Someone out there may be struggling way worse than us and it would be great if we could extend a helping hand to them. Reach out to your community leaders/people with your community who may be able to give you ideas on how you can help do groceries for the elderly, or maybe help provide lunch for a Title 1 school kid that relies on that one meal a day.

Take a deep breath, count your blessings, practice patience and let’s all be a part of a community-minded society.

Let’s pray for the healing for all those affected worldwide and also for all the first responders/health care workers that are risking their lives each and every day to give us hope. Look at this quarantine time with your family as a time to reconnect and maybe even a much-needed break from your day to day activities. I do believe this time will make us self reflect and also bring about changes for the future and set some new normals.

Yes, there are challenging days ahead but remember this too shall pass and the only way through this is – FORWARD.

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