In the past year, I’ve been a witness to a lot of hate. So many people are being killed in Aleppo that they’ve run out of room to bury the dead. Hate crimes in the United States and the United Kingdom have increased since elections. The year 2016 has almost become a meme for how awful it has been. I know I’m not the only one seeing all of this, because it’s all over our social media. People are witnessing all the bad in the world but doing little about it. We can do better than that. As college students, we're not only planning for our future, but for the future of everyone around us. That’s why I am choosing empathy every single day, and that’s why I’m writing to ask you all to do the same.
Empathy is similar to sympathy (which tends to be better known and used more often) in the sense that it is something to feel when you learn someone is going through rough times. However, empathy is when you do what you can to understand someone else’s perspective and try to imagine how you would react in situations they are in. Think of it this way: instead of telling someone “I’m so sorry for you,” ask them, "How can I help you right now?” While sympathy shows compassion, it lacks the connection that empathy creates, and that connection is a driving force in making a difference.
Empathy is essential in making all forms of change. Lately, the world seems to be lacking it quite a bit. That’s why it is important we all start choosing empathy and sharing it with the world, even in the smallest of doses. The sooner in our lives that we begin to think of others, the more natural it will become to actually act on our caring. There are so many different ways to show empathy. If you’re with a friend who is stressed out, simply ask how you can support them. If you find yourself feeling exhausted because of all what’s happening overseas in Aleppo, consider what you might want others to do for you if you were in that situation. There are plenty of ways to donate to the organizations helping the people there, for example.
If you’d rather help locally, look for organizations that promote kindness and act with empathy in mind. For example, I love the occasional events put on by the Secret Kindness Agents in my area, like tying scarves and other warm articles of clothing to trees and poles for those experiencing homelessness in the winter, or writing kind, sincere notes and passing them along to deserving people in our community or schools. While it is okay to feel upset that someone is experiencing hardships, no one benefits from sympathy. Choose empathy, and try to make things better.
According to the University of Chicago, empathy is natural. But as the saying goes, one death is a tragedy, one million is a statistic. In other words, we feel empathetic when we see one case of hardship, but when it’s a group of people, it becomes easier to view the numbers as just that- numbers. However, with that mindset, too many people are being hurt, discriminated against or killed. That’s why I’m asking you to choose empathy. This year has been so hard on more than just a few people. The entire world needs empathy. It is your job to provide it. It's our job as college students to make empathy a norm for our generation.
So please, choose empathy. Choose to be kind, choose to put yourself in other’s shoes, choose to make the world a little bit brighter. With so much happening in the world now, there is no doubt in my mind that we all need it. These are tough times, but we can make them better. It is our job to do so. As everyone’s friend Kid President says, “It takes courage to be awesome sometimes. Keep going. The world needs awesome.”
Lead Image Credit: emily.brandon via Instagram