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Mary Bolchini: “Empathy In Action”

This I Believe

Empathy In Action

by Mary Bolchini

 

I believe in empathy in action as a spiritual practice. Empathy in action is a combination of sympathy, compassion, plus taking a step forward to help others. Empathy alone is not enough. Once I feel someone’s pain, I want to help soothe that pain. Empathy in action gives me a feeling of well-being, warmth, affection and makes me feel I am doing the right thing.

When my mother was 50 years old, she suffered a stroke. She was a beautiful young woman who was always full of energy. The stroke changed her life and mine. I dedicated every day and night to be by her side until she was able to heal and reclaim her independence. The first forty days after she suffered the stroke were the most stressful and painful days I have experienced in my life. During the early days her life was in peril while she was waiting to have brain surgery. I spent the first week taking care of my mother by myself. I was at the hospital day and night to make sure she had everything she needed. I felt lonely, desperate, and sad. The second week my best friend Marcela did something I will never forget. After hearing about the situation, she decided to take time off from work to help me to take care of my mom. Every day she brought me food, books, and anything else I needed to occupy my days at the hospital. She kept me company and she occasionally stayed with my mom, which allowed me to take care of my other responsibilities. Marcela not only felt compassion, sympathy, and empathy but she took a step forward to alleviate my suffering.

Two years after my mom had the stroke, my friend Cristina was diagnosed with kidney disease. Again, I had the opportunity to put empathy into action. She had to have dialysis while she was on the waiting list to receive a kidney transplant. It was a long and painful process. Cristina didn’t have health insurance and thus had to use the public system for her treatment. She had to go to the hospital every other day and she didn’t own a car. I drove her to the hospital for six months so she could receive the treatment. Furthermore, I cooked for her and assisted her with her personal needs.

Putting empathy in action can also take the form of small gestures to make someone else’s life easier. Sometimes a phone call from my brother comes at the wrong time, but I try to empathize with him and put my obligations aside and listen. One of my brothers lives in the United States without his wife and children. He doesn’t speak English very well, which makes it harder for him to live in the United States. He needs a lot of support to take care of his personal finances, medical needs, and anything else to that requires personal interaction with English speaking individuals. At times he feels depressed and lost in his new home. I take the time to manage his bank accounts, pay his bills, call doctors to make appointments, and anything else that can make his life easier. I helped him financially to bring his family to visit last year.

I believe that empathy in action adds tremendous value to my life. It helps me nurture my interpersonal relationships while I help others. Giving and receiving empathy in action is a spiritual practice that can make us better human beings.

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(Read all the pieces in This I Believe; featured image by Toa Heftiba at Unsplash)

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