Empathy Is More Than Just A Feel-Good Word

bokeh photography of gray lights
Jonathan Knepper / Unsplash

It was winter. 

It was twenty degrees and my lungs hurt. You know, that deep kind of cold where it just seeps into your bones and you’re not sure if there’s enough clothing on the planet to keep you warm. I was heading to my parent’s house to have lunch with my mom, and when I arrived, I was immediately blasted with warmth. It made me think of all the people in New York who are homeless.

What is it like to never be greeted with warmth?

It was winter. 

I went to my parent’s house, again. I had lunch with my mom, again. And she turned to me and said, “I washed my hands today, and the water felt so warm. And it made me think of all the people in this world who don’t have clean water, let alone warm water.”

How can we help them?

Empathy. It’s more than just a feel-good word.

It’s a muscle that needs to be worked out. It’s a behavior and a feeling that needs to be cultivated. It’s something that is taught, passed down from generation to generation.

It’s winter.

It’s still cold.

There’s a sign tacked up onto a telephone pole by my home with a missing coat sign. Yes, a missing coat sign. This person has lost their coat, and it’s cold, and they’re hoping someone will see it, and return it to them.

I haven’t seen the coat.

There was no contact information on the sign…but I couldn’t get it out of my head. I couldn’t stop thinking about homes without heat and people without water and backs without coats.

So I went through our closets and filled a bag with items that my husband and I do not use, and gave it to the local church.

The Christmas and Holiday season is upon us – and it can be a stressful time for some. The pressure to buy and spend is undoubtedly all around us. But, if you go home to a house that is warm and water than runs hot, if you are able to put a coat on your back as you brace the cold, I hope you realize that you are blessed.

I hope you remember that the bits of humanity that keep us pulsing and beating are never found in the newest fashion statement or electronic craze – but in the folds of someone’s smile, the warmth of someone’s hug, and compassion from strangers.

Empathy. It’s more than just a feel-good word.

It’s about finding the courage in yourself to be the type of person who feels for people, who cares for people, who realizes that the world needs more shoulders to cry on, outstretched hands, ears that will listen, and hearts that will love. Thought Catalog Logo Mark

I hate styling my hair.

Keep up with Megan on Instagram and meganminutillo.com

More From Thought Catalog