Thoughts by Richard Bleil
My friend was quite upset today. It seems that she was at the grocery store at a sudden burst of shoppers. As she was checking out, she saw an older woman with mobility issues. Apparently, she was pushing her cart a bit, and then using her walker to catch up with it. It was a slow and difficult process for her. But fortunately for here there were many people around.
Of course, these many people were rushing to get past her, and seemed visibly annoyed at this woman. She was aware that she was holding up the crowd, but nobody wanted to take a little bit of time out of their clearly very busy and important schedule to help her. Because she was blocking so many people, she was becoming increasingly frustrated and upset, which, of course, slowed her down even more. Fortunately, there were plenty of store employees there.
Of course, the employees were far too busy with the sudden burst of clients to bother with one old woman. This I find interesting. It’s bad enough that as a society we don’t have time for each other, or respect for our elders, but you would think that the store employees would recognize her struggles, and that people could get out of the store if they helped her out thereby clearing the bottleneck. But they didn’t.
My friend did.
My friend took time out of her personal schedule to help this woman. She pushed her cart out to her vehicle, helped put the groceries into it, and spent a little bit of time speaking with her. Her name was Linda, and my friend said that the depths of her gratitude were palpable. My friend, after helping Linda out, went to her own vehicle, where she sat and cried.
Why is it that in our society, with so much to be grateful, we are so blind to one another? My friend said that one day, she will be in the situation that Linda found herself. We all will. It’s a matter of time. But that we will one day need help is not the reason we should be caring for each other. If we have a heart, we need to see others. Unfortunately, for my readers who lack sympathy for others, there are no words I can say, no argument I can make, no way to convince them to care. This is something that we learn as children from our parents.
I have so many friends who are so great at teaching their children to be good people. My friend who helped Linda has several children of their own, and now that they are adults, they take after their mother. They are the kind of people who would help. What’s more, they cry when they see somebody like Linda being ignored. Another friend takes her daughter with her to feed the homeless every Sunday. A third does a lot of work for her neighborhood and the less privileged.
A former colleague tried to argue with me that I must be Christian. His argument was that morality can only come from Christianity, but it’s not true. Religion does not teach empathy, although often churches do offer the opportunity to perform charitable work. It teaches rules, and the fear of breaking the rules, but some of the least empathetic people I’ve known carried out atrocities under the badge “Christian”.
Recently I wrote a piece based on research that seems to indicate that letting children help with chores and work tends to lead to more empathetic citizens ( https://bleilbanter.blog/2021/08/15/empathetic-citizens-8-15-21/ ). If this is true, my friends must have worked very hard.
I have truly mixed feelings on her story. I’m very disappointed in the throngs of people who passed Linda up, and more so in those who were annoyed at her. And yet, I’m so proud of my friend, and those like her who do see others as they struggle, who will lend a helping hand, and who will give of their time, their talents and even their money when necessary.
I try to be off service to others. Albert Einstein is credited for saying that only a life lived for others is a life worth living. I agree. I went so far as to choose a career path that served others far more than it served me, and yet, those that I tried to help are also the ones that turned on me and seemed to have made it their goal to find ways to tear me down, and they certainly did succeed. But it was the kind heart and helping hand of my friends who kept me off of the streets, encouraged me to move forward and, if you’ll forgive my saying so, gave me the courage to keep living. Today, I feel as if I can’t be as much help as I would like to be, and yet, I still try to be of service to others. The Freemasons teach that the way to change society is to model the behaviors we wish to see in others. As a Mason, I return to this lesson on occasion. Maybe, just maybe, my empathetic friends can change our world.