em•pa•thy [ émpəthee ]
1. understanding of another's feelings: the ability to identify with and understand somebody else's feelings or difficulties
Synonyms: understanding, sympathy, compassion, responsiveness, identification, fellow feeling
I had planned on posting some new work, but this is more important today.
Yesterday when I took my son to his taekwondo class, as we were driving in, we saw a friend of ours heading for her car with her two boys. One of the boys is autistic. She was crying, disconsolate really. So Evan and I pulled in next to her and asked what happened. Apparently the son who is autistic (awesome kid by the way) was playing hide and seek in the dojo with a few other kids; and quite innocently- he went into the women’s changing area to hide. There was a woman in there breast feeding her baby, who demanded that he leave. WTF? She was breastfeeding, not having killer sex. Oh yuck, thats a visual I didnt need.
Any reasonably intelligent mom should know that when you shout or speak sharply to a child –especially one who doesn’t know you, they react out of fear, from the brain stem. She decided he was (in her words) a mouthy brat. Well she came out of there looking for the mother of said ‘brat’ and proceeded to give my friend hell. My friend apologized and explained her son was autistic, and the response was along the lines of “I guess you need to do a better job of watching him then”. My girl being the woman she is, apologized profusely and repeatedly, but the woman kept at her, made her feel awful, just awful. I don’t care who you are, or who the kid is, there’s no need for that. See definition above- it applies to most every situation.
Girlfriend kept it together until she hit the front door, then dissolved. Tougher than I could have been. Sensei would’ve had to mop me up off the dojo floor
I need to digress a moment to tell you what an amazing woman and mom my friend is. She takes on the battle when no one else will. She advocates tirelessly and thanklessly for autism affected kids and their families. She shines. She loves. She yells. She makes mistakes. She succeeds. She keeps going.
So once girlfriend felt OK enough to drive, Evan and I parked our car. Mind you now, Evan witnessed the pain in our friend. I asked Evan if he would mind changing inside, instead of in the car like he usually does.
Because I want to talk to the lady who hurt our friend.
“You gonna tell her all about it?”
Damn right I am.
“Yaaay Mom power!!!” (did I mention how cool my son is?)
Everyone has issues of some kind or another. Everyone has skeletons of some sort. They are with us always, they affect everything we do, every single action and reaction is governed by the rats nest of stuff we all deal with in our secret selves every single day.
And no one is perfect, no one. No matter how hard or seemingly successfully they try to keep up that pretty picket fence façade.
Next time someone -or more especially, some child happens to perpetrate some unmindful act of discourtesy or rudeness, try to keep that definition in the front of your mind and realize there just might be more to it. Breathe and connect with your own heart first.
I apologize to Elton John for mangling his lyric to “Harmony”
Do I need to tell you that as I was “telling her all about it”, I forgot all about empathy?
And you know what? I am sorta grateful that I did….awful aren’t I?