Today, I’m going to write about empathy.
Today, I was a little too close to a violent incident than I cared to face on such a beautiful Tuesday afternoon in an affluent suburban Atlanta neighborhood.
My father is receiving a monthly treatment called IVIg (look it up) post-chemo phase of his recovery process. I picked him up after his treatment this morning and took him to one of our staple father-daughter dinner spots in a pretty decent suburban location of Atlanta; a chain Mexican restaurant. En route to our lunch date and my first thought was “wow, Pops, you’re looking great!” He looked so vibrant, healthy and happy.
We arrived to our lunch spot and told the hostess that we had two for our party. As I stood at the host stand, I looked around at the bar and the dining area; a man and a woman at the bar and a packed lunch crowd in the dining room. We were taken to our table towards the back of the restaurant and began ordering our usual (shared Texas fajitas and queso). I was filling Dad in on all the great things happening in life, work, etc. He was also sharing how happy he was working again and being busy with his business.
About 15 minutes into our visit, I started seeing restaurant staff flooding past our table, running to the front of the establishment. With my back to the front and Dad facing that way, I asked “what’s going on?” My first thought was “does someone have a gun.” I couldn’t help but go into instant over-protective mode and wondered if I needed to jump in front of my Dad to shield him from any sort of threat. I can’t help but blame our culture and current society for instantly thinking so extremely, but unfortunately, this is the world we now live in. Side note, my instinctual response was to shield my father. If you’re new to my blog, I will tell you that I would sacrifice myself in a split second for that man. I know you must be able to relate- there is someone that you would face the dreadful black abyss of death for, right? That person is my Pops, the man I owe my entire life to.
Back to the point of this blog…
About two minutes later, our waitress returned and calmly explained to us that one of the restaurant guests who was sitting at the bar just shot himself at the front of the restaurant (right outside the front doors). She politely told us that we needed to close out our tab (we had just received our food) and to exit the facility via the side entrance because they were closing the restaurant for the police to properly do their jobs and frankly, “there is a lot of blood” in her words.
What do you know! My first thought of why the staff was rushing to the entrance was partly true; it was a gun-related incident. I felt the blood rush to my head and immediately after, the feeling of empathy. I asked the waitress “you mean, he’s dead?” I was frozen and couldn’t help but feel a wave of empathy for that man who was sitting at the bar, a man who had a family, a man who was someone’s son, someone’s husband, someone’s father, someone’s brother. Thoughts of “why would he take his own life!?” Then I wondered “would he still be here if someone had just told him that it’s not so bad, if someone gave him a few nice words that life will turn around.” I also thought that this man could have turned that pistol on anyone in that restaurant today before taking his own life. I got a flash of how precious life is and how any of us could go at any moment without knowing.
I know people commit suicide every second of every day, but I guess when it happens a few hundred feet from you, it just makes you think about it a little deeper. People live each day with weight of a certain experience that makes them live in pain, or the weight of a loss, or a troubled past. The point is, we do not know the pain that people live with; the man behind you at the grocery store, the woman that just smiled at you in passing, the teenage boy you hear asking his mother for a new video game. It gets real when you really think about it.
I have been well-aware that I have always had a very strong sense of empathy for others and this situation is just another example of how deeply I care about others within our world, our community. There’s a mainstream song that speaks to this “no one’s a stranger, we are all walking along the same path.” I truly feel that no one is a stranger to me and I feel the deepest of sorrows for the pain that others experience. My Grandmother (may she rest in peace) was the first to recognize this immense amount of empathy that I had for the general public. Since my childhood, I have felt a push and this God-wrenching drive to comfort those in pain. Hence, my reaction and guilt of wishing I had known that man was hurting. I would have told him that life happens in cycles; just because today sucks doesn’t mean tomorrow will.
Have you ever felt such an astounding amount of empathy for someone? If so, what was it? When was it?
I can’t help but wonder what drove that man to pull the trigger to end his life today. We all (well, most of us) dread the end to what we know today. The ending of our reality. There’s no replay, reset or “let me try again.” Life is precious and I am well-aware of that. I live in fear every single day for my life due to my free-floating anxiety (Google it) and the reality of the world we live in today. What if tomorrow was your last day? Do you think you have done well with the life you have been given? Did you love your hardest? Did you kiss your children goodbye? Did you tell them that they’re great and that you loved them? Did you show the ones who sacrifice for you that they are appreciated? If you haven’t, please do.
More so than ever, I feel like today’s world is a lot different than the past. We need to evaluate the value of our life simply because we do not have a pause, replay or rewind button to rely on. Today is now and tomorrow is not guaranteed. I tell my Dad every single day that I love him more than my own life because that is the value of my love for him. I tell my partner that I appreciate his love and for loving me every single day. I also love those who do not love me. I pray for peace in their life and I appreciate every experience I have been presented with; every breath I have taken in the thirty years I have been given. If I am not here tomorrow, I want it to be clear that my love runs deep for my family, Milo (my pup), my friends and for every person who feels an ill-natured emotion towards me. I wish you peace. I live for the little victories in life. I am wise but naive enough to wish peace among the world; a world without violence, without pain, without suicide. We are all fighting a fight. I wish peace for you all. Show empathy when needed to those who need it the most. Show compassion for your fellow walker down this path in life. You may find more in common than you expect. Love and Light, always.