Empathy finale: Part III


A LOT of Help — from friends
both near and far

© Madelyn Griffith-Haynie, CTP, CMC, ACT, MCC, SCAC
from the Walking a Mile Series – Part III, conclusion
Part I HERE; and Part II HERE

“There, but for the grace of God, go I”

We each have the power to change the world for someone

Our society has become very self-focused in the 30 years between my first and last experience with broken bones and lack of autonomy. I may not be able to do much to change it, but I am driven to name it and to speak out against it, especially in today’s political climate.

Perhaps the posting of this 3-part article will turn out to be the silver lining to the cloud of an unbelievably challenging several years of my already challenging life.

Perhaps the world will be just a little bit softer and more supportive, thanks to the efforts of those of you who have taken time from your lives to read it — in any number of arenas, but certainly in that of reaching out to help someone alone and in need.

Time creeps for those awaiting attention or help, especially once autonomy has been stripped.

I hope that reading my story will encourage ALL of you to set aside a moment to pay a bit of kind attention to anyone in your lives who has been waiting for someone to have time for them.

Attempt to cheer them up without making them wrong for needing cheering. Simply listening (without “up-languaging”) is a very kind thing to do and easy to extend, even if you are unable to manage more practical assistance.

As I have said in each of the three parts of this article, I am posting it NOW to put a human face on the reality that we all need to increase our willingness to get involved, before the next DSM is forced to add a new category: EDD – Empathy Deficiency Disorder.

My second experience is coming to a close, thanks to a dear couple several states away, more disposed to empathy than sympathy. They insisted on making the TEN HOUR drive to bring me back home with them — to help me heal emotionally as much as physically.

Again, as you read, I want you to keep in mind that, as disturbing as my experience certainly was, it pales in comparison to what many folks must overcome every day of their lives, and what many of our neighbors may shortly be facing unless enough of us step up and sing out.
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Sorry for the Inconvenience Part II


dynv_warning_sign_1

PTSD Trigger Warning

Not my problem,
not my business?

© Madelyn Griffith-Haynie, CTP, CMC, ACT, MCC, SCAC
from the Walking a Mile Series – Part II

“There, but for the grace of God, go I”

What kind of world do YOU want?

As I began in Part I of this article, our society seems to be rapidly moving to a state where it is empathy-averse. This article is my attempt at trying to change that sad reality in some small fashion by telling my personal story.

The power of true stories

Sometimes hearing the stories of people you know, even a little, makes a greater impact than any urging to speak out, step up, and make a difference ever could. So I have written a three-part article sharing two personal experiences, several years past now, the first of which I shared in Part I.

My second experience is more disturbing, yet perhaps more important to my quest to foster empathy in those who seem to be more disposed to offer sympathy.  Not to post a spoiler, but the end of the story, Part III returns to a more upbeat tone that so many commented that they appreciated about Part I.

However, anyone who has never experienced needing help and not being able to get it has probably never thought about what a lack of empathy means in the life of someone they know. This part of the article gives everybody just a little taste.

Everybody wins – or loses

Science is unconflicted in their assertions that community is important to physical and mental health – both to those who give and to those who receive support — as well as about the dangers of remaining apart on either side of the equation.

I want to repeat another bit of text from Part I:

Sympathy is not the same as Empathy

Sympathy is “feeling sorry for” a person in a particular situation. It is a feeling that allows us to be grateful that we are not the ones going through the experience personally.

But it also fosters a pull to allow ourselves to sit back and do nothing to ease the burden for another.

Empathy is “putting ourselves in the shoes of another,” allowing us to imagine what we would find helpful and encouraging, and perhaps to step up to extend support – if only a little bit, and maybe more than that.

OR, as Bernadette from HaddonsMusings, host of the Senior Salon commented after Part I:

Sympathy is sitting on the sidelines;
empathy is getting in the game.

And now for the disclosure of some of the details of my more recent experience – even though it is now several years behind me.

As you read, I want you to keep in mind that, as disturbing as my experience certainly was, it pales in comparison to what many of our neighbors may shortly be facing unless enough of us step up and sing out.

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Do you have a minute? Sorry for the Inconvenience.


Tough Love Lessons
from an Empathy Deficit Society

© Madelyn Griffith-Haynie, CTP, CMC, ACT, MCC, SCAC
from the Walking a Mile Series – Part I

“There, but for the grace of God, go I”

Not my problem, not my business?

Our society seems to be rapidly moving to a state where it is empathy-averse. The next few posts are my attempt at trying to change that sad reality in some small fashion by telling my personal story. It is time

Many who are still able to care what happens to others take the “wait and see” approach, hoping perhaps that some of the problems will resolve without their involvement.

I have noticed it most overtly in response to current political actions of late, but I have always seen it most pervasively in the continuing lack of Mental Health Awareness.

That attitude troubles me greatly.  We need each other, and the quote at the top of this page has never been more apt.

I always planned to speak out about it, once I put my life back together after a horrendous event that all but took it away from me entirely. But there was so much to do in the aftermath that time got away from me.

The attitude I observe, that seems to be increasing since the start of the most recent election cycle, has emboldened me.  I think it’s time to put some polish on a few drafts and publish them.

The Value of Personal Stories

Sometimes hearing the stories of people you know, even a little, makes a greater impact than any urging to step up, speak out and make a difference ever could.

So I will be sharing two personal experiences, one a great many years ago and the other only a few. I plan to divide the article into three parts, mindful of the time many of us lack for reading extremely long posts, even though these will be longer than many.  They will post on consecutive Wednesdays.

I am posting them NOW to underscore the reason we all need to increase our willingness to get involved before the next DSM is forced to add a new category: EDD – Empathy Deficiency Disorder.

Sympathy vs. Empathy

Sympathy is “feeling sorry for” a person in a particular situation. It is a feeling that allows us to be grateful that we are not the ones going through the experience personally. But it also fosters a pull to allow ourselves to sit back and do nothing to ease the burden for another.

Empathy is “putting ourselves in the shoes of another,” allowing us to imagine what we would find helpful and encouraging, and perhaps to step up to extend support – if only a little bit, and maybe more than that.

Talk and Timing

As I said in one of my updates to an article years ago now, NO contact possible: mugged at gunpoint, modern medicine is very different than the first time I had a broken bone but, unfortunately, bones don’t heal correspondingly rapidly.

My first experience was the result of multiple, serious, spiral fractures to my right leg, many years ago.  The damage was the result of a skiing accident that left me unable to get out of bed for a month, in a hip cast for about 8 months, and a leg that was smaller than the diameter of my arm once the cast was finally removed.

The negative impact to my acting career was substantial, but my attitude remained essentially positive – despite a great many challenges – thanks to more than a little help from a small handful of my friends.

This is my story

New York City, where I was living when I broke my leg, was in the middle of a transit strike, and New York cabbies were reluctant to take the time to deal with someone on crutches or in a wheelchair.

  • At that time I lived with a godsend of a roommate who stood at the curb to hail a cab while I was hidden from view, so that I could get where I needed to go.
  • She also emptied my bedpans for that first bed-ridden month. She kept me company, the bills paid and our services on, and food in my belly.
  • At no time – for an entire year – did she display impatience or treat me differently. Nor did she suggest that I pretend that lack of autonomy was less of a struggle for me than it was. She helped me keep my spirits up with conversation and laughter.
  • At NO time did she expect that I pretend my situation could be handled by “thinking positively” about it.  She understood without having to be reminded, that “motivational” talk of that type would have felt belittling.
  • She sat with me patiently during the times I wept over the seeming relentlessness of the situation.

Thank you Janine.  I was extremely grateful at the time but, until the contrast of my more recent experience, I had NO idea how very much your help and your attitude made it possible for me to make it through that time emotionally – and whole.

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Rarely Proud to be an American Anymore


How did our country become so selfish?
An interaction that left me Grumpy – and it’s not even Monday!

© Madelyn Griffith-Haynie, CTP, CMC, ACT, MCC, SCAC
in the Monday Grumpy Monday Series

Walkin’ my Dog

As someone who moved around a lot throughout my life, I am currently living a considerably more isolated life than I would prefer because I have landed in a town I can’t really understand – Cincinnati, Ohio.

From my experience, at least, Cincinnati seems to be one of those towns I’ve come to call “passport towns.”

An introduction from somebody who’s grown up here – or lived here for most of his or her life – seems to be a prerequisite for even so much as a welcoming smile many days, and certainly the passport needed to develop a community of true friends. Since my move here several years ago, I have found myself quite lonely as a result.

True friends share each others’ lives, not merely conversations in passing or occasional calls for help or understanding in times of trouble. Most of my friends are scattered across the nation, so I frequently get a hankering for a a bit of face-to-face interaction, even though, since Kate Kelly’s passing, I no longer know anyone in Cincinnati I could count among my true friends.

Enforced isolation is something I have not experienced since, many years ago now, I first moved to New Orleans, Louisiana for grad school – another passport town. That surprised me, by the way. I’ve always made friends easily, and it’s extremely rare to need a passport in the South. But I think I finally figured it out.

Commonalities

I’ve observed that the two towns I mentioned are alike in this way: people who grow up there tend to stay put or move back “home,” perhaps because they finally tire of living in some other passport town where they couldn’t develop a community of friends either. In any case, a great many of the residents of these towns seem disinclined to widen their circles to include a stranger without the requisite introduction from a local.

Taking my own advice (from the Series I have been writing on loneliness and isolation), my little dog TinkerToy and I get out several times a day – and I smile warmly at everyone I pass on our walks around the neighborhood (even if they don’t return my smile). I engage anyone who seems the least bit friendly in a passing conversation.

“Hi, how are you?”
“Don’t you just love (or hate) this weather?”

When I notice an expression on a face that seems to indicate that they are about to bring our little chat to a close, I wave them on and tell them I hope they have a nice day.

Related posts:
The Importance of Community to Health
When You’re Longing for Connection

But passport towns are not the central point of today’s post.
Walking my dog is how I came to meet Staff Sergeant Brown.

Some actual connection

My little Shih Tzu TinkerToy and I frequently pass a small cigarettes-snacks-and-beer store that serves the many college students in this section of the walking neighborhood I currently call home. Staff Sergeant Brown was sitting on a stoop out in front, keeping watch on two large garbage bags bulging with cans.

Do you know what he can get for those cans these days?  A whole thirty cents – per pound.

And that’s how this courageous, 63 year old veteran of FOUR wars is currently supporting himself – because he is too proud to beg.

Don’t forget that you can always check out the sidebar
for a reminder of how links work on this site, they’re subtle ==>

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