EMPATHY

We are please to post an essay by Adam Ehlert, Past District Governor of Rotary International, and the recent author of: Atrial Frustration, a Cardiac Arrythmia Saga, which debuted as Amazon’s #1 New Release in Cardiology. 

We are please to add an essay about Empathy, written by Adam Elhert, Past District Governor in Rotary International, and the recent author of: Atrial Frustration, a Cardiac Arrythmia Saga, which debuted as Amazon’s #1 New Release in Cardiology.”

Why has our society become so decidedly un-civil? 

Politics, of course, seems to drive it all.  And that is surprising, considering how much disdain we all seem to have for all in office.  Any office.  At the most basic statistic, Congress has not had the approval of even one-third of Americans in more than a decade.  The much-maligned “Dogcatcher” position is better-received. 

So, if we near-universally seem to despise politics (two-thirds for sure, anyway), why has our public discourse been so “dragged”—in the parlance of the day—by the nonsense of their realm? 

Is it train-wreck voyeurism?  Good old schadenfreude?  Do we need dopamine doses from lamenting legislative inanities?  Are we trying to fit in by following the herd, piling-on the momentarily weak and defenseless?   Why the wedge? 

While not a good-government “Goo-Goo” optimist like my favorite high school teacher, I do believe that people—as people—strive to join, to heal, to uplift, to share, to be good, to do good, to see good (in all!), to take care, and to uphold, eagerly, the Golden Rule.  All without the implicit or wet-ink weight of Congressional blessing. 

Mankind has survived via a special kind of collectivism—especially in a free, open and self-governed society.  We have survived by not mutually-destructing.  So why do we seem hell-bent on it, now, at least rhetorically?  Why, again, the wedge? 

Why is a philosophical difference now the basis to declare one’s neighbor a mortal enemy?  Literally. 

I think we have forgotten to empathize with our neighbors.  That pure, basic, human emotion of kindness and understanding. 

We should not hate our neighbor because of a yard sign or a bumper sticker.  As Tom Lehrer ironically opined decades ago: “I know there are people who do not love their fellow man, and I hate people like that!”  We don’t all have to agree…but in today’s age we sure shouldn’t hate.  In fact, our great country of freedom was built upon the concept of dissidence.  Civil dissidence, of discourse, anyway. 

My suggestion for a quick recalibration via other-shoe perspective?  Take those steps through a hospital.  That’s it. 

You don’t need to be intrusive.  Just mildly observant.  You will see your brothers and sisters in all stages of humanity—relief, worry, unease, curiosity, frustration-borne-of-bureaucracy…and soul-challenging faith.  And while they may deal with it differently from you and from me, we all will share a host of human emotions throughout our lifetimes. 

Let’s try to be understanding.  Let’s empathize.  Let’s be civil. 


…that’s 30 for today. What are your thoughts? Submit a comment or article.

3 thoughts on “EMPATHY

  1. Great essay. Illness and death are the great equalizers, and one would hope that they would create empathy. But one has to be willing to seek empathy to find it. Those who don’t care will not care until they are directly affected. Sadly, even health care providers are angry and distressed at the general public who flippantly refuse to wear masks, knowing those same people will come in demanding health care when they get COVID (putting those HC workers at risk). How do you get to empathy when you don’t care about others??

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  2. Adam Elbert writes the truth in his observations. We often avoid the truth about politics and government and even ourselves because the truth hurts. And for more and more in our country today we hide from the truth about ourselves. In Rotary we say “service above selves.” Adam demonstrated that quality in his Rotary district leadership. But we daily need to ask ourselves, “what are we doing for others?”

    I like Adam’s suggestion that we a go to visit a hospital (after the pandemic). I would suggest we not leave that hospital until we then go to the hospital chapel to pray. I think we need a spiritual recalibration today. As a pastor, you might expect that I would point out to vital spiritual values as a source for the “soul changing faith.” Someone needs to speak to our human condition today, like Adam has done so well. Someone also needs to ask why and what can we do about it. We can and must do something about it before we break out into a civil war and greater violence.

    God help us. Are we asking God to help us? At our online Rotary Club meetings we have stopped having an invocation. We need one another, regardless of our differences! Prayer is essential for soul changing faith. And practicing God’s love and truth through service to others is our salvation.

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  3. Yes, it is a Rotary standard that few outside our circle understand or accept. My office mate’s neighbor came to mind in Adam’s writing as this person is out on the edge of his political beliefs and an irritant to my partner and others. For nearly 18 years, I have introduced implicit bias to my grad students and have been thrilled that the topic has become a topic on a widespread basis. One of the resources I refer to is that photo of Pope Francis kissing and embracing a man whose head and face are covered with horrible warts and blisters. I always state to my students (educators seeking further positions of leadership) that if the Pope can see past this man’s obvious ugly condition, they, too, can certainly look past skin color, dirty clothing, poor hygiene, and other surface maladies to see the real person with whom they must relate. I thought of myself as an empathetic individual capable of understanding the depth of emotion of others, but until we lost our son to cancer, I truly changed my thinking about all those former encounters with parents who struggled with all kinds of hardships and losses. As for Clayton’s remark about invocations at Rotary, our club has heard those comments as some want to move beyond. At this time especially, we need to invoke a spiritual presence in our lives as much as any other time.

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