Get Well Soon

“The nature of humanity, its essence, is to feel another’s pain as one’s own, and to act to take that pain away. There is nobility in compassion, a beauty in empathy, a grace in forgiveness.  – John Connolly

Last Thursday, following an evaluation by the Attending Physician of the United States Congress, Sen. John Fetterman (D-PA), checked himself into Walter Reed National Military Medical Center to “receive treatment for clinical depression,”  As would be expected, there were a few partisan pundits and lawmakers who were a quick to criticize Fetterman, however their comments were overshadowed by a bi-partisan display of compassion and empathy.  Politicians across party lines are applauding the Senator for having the courage to seek help.  Representative Scott Perry (R-PA) and Senator Tim Scott R-SC), both began meetings on Friday by offering prayers for the Senator and his family.  

On February 6th earthquakes struck southeastern Türkiye and northern Syria, devastating both regions.  Estimates now put the death toll at over 37,000.  Three days later, on February 9th, the United States committed $85 million in urgent humanitarian assistance to support the efforts to save lives and lend support to those in need.  In addition organizations such as the Red Cross, Unicef, Doctors Without Borders and numerous others are lending assistance.  What we are witnessing is the best in people and organizations – empathy, compassion and action!

Why does it sometimes take a tragedy to activate our compassion and empathy?  Both are considered human traits that are innate and can be learned and enhanced.  In fact, advances in neuroscience have shown us that our brain has neural networks that are hard-wired with the ability to share the experiences of others, including emotions and sensations.  Compassion and empathy are always important, but they are especially crucial in our current world situation for several reasons:

  1. The COVID-19 pandemic impacted people all over the world in various ways, such as causing illness, economic hardship, and social isolation. Compassion and empathy were and continue to be essential for supporting those who are struggling, whether it be through providing emotional support or practical assistance.
  2. Our current political climate is marked by division and polarization. Compassion and empathy help bridge these divides by encouraging people to understand and empathize with the experiences and perspectives of others, even if they don’t agree with them.
  3. In many parts of the world, social and economic inequality continue to be major issues.  Compassion and empathy are necessary to advocate for, and support marginalized communities, whether it be through advocating policy change, charitable donations, or individual actions.
  4. The ongoing climate crisis impacts people and ecosystems around the world.  Compassion and empathy can inspire people to take action to protect local environments and their inhabitants, both human and non-human.

Compassion and empathy are necessary if we are to build a more just, equitable, and sustainable world.  Compassion and empathy help us connect with others, understand their experiences, and take action to create positive change.   Compassion and empathy need to be as ingrained as saying hello and goodbye.  It can be a challenge, and may be daunting, to consider our personal role in helping bring about this transformation, but as psychiatrist and concentration camp survivor Viktor Frankl, reminded us, “…everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms – to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way”  Get well soon Senator .
Charity Navigator assesses the direct impact charities have on the communities they serve in relation to how much they cost to run, which is part of their “Impact and Results” score.  This is a particularly important metric to be aware of when donating because it shows you how effectively your dollars will be used.   Click the link above to see some of the highest-rated charities on Charity Navigator for Türkiye and Syria earthquake relief efforts.

Embrace the Challenge.