Years ago, I led an organization that recruited physicians. It was a time when the shortage of medical professionals was becoming very real. I would receive calls from legislators and leaders asking, “Do we really have a physician crisis?”
My response was,
“When you can’t find a doctor or it’s your doctor that moves away it is a crisis.”
Isn’t that the truth?
We don’t worry about our weight until we can’t zip our jeans.
We don’t worry about our cholesterol until we have a heart attack.
We don’t worry about care and help for the aging until our parents (or we) age.
We don’t worry about handicapped accessibility until we become handicapped-even temporarily.
We don’t worry about distracted driving until a texting person collides with us.
We don’t worry about the opioid crisis until our child dies from an overdose.
We don’t worry about a shortage of toilet paper until we don’t have any.
Why do we wait until something touches our heart, our life, or our pocketbook before we pay attention to it? Because for the most part we are ingrained with an out-of-sight-out-of-mind mentality. If it happens to someone else, we may feel sorry for them momentarily. If we see a news report, we may think it is sad. We may try to see things from their point of view and imagine ourselves in their place, but we can never feel what they are feeling from our outside perspective. True empathy is a difficult emotion to feel deeply until it happens to you.
Once you do experience it personally, you become one of ‘those’ people. We all know them. The one who is the first one to give support when your crisis happens. The one who knows what to say- and what not to say. The one who holds your hand and comforts your heart. They show up. They show up because it has happened to them, to their family, or to their community. Their crisis may have been a different level, a different experience, and a different circumstance, but they have walked a similar path. A path that taught them understanding. A path that gave them the gift of empathy. They have learned how to do the things they don’t have to do – because it matters.
Maybe we can learn a lesson here. None of us knows what our future will bring, but we can dig a little deeper into what a crisis is. We can stop the out-of-sight-out-of-mind habit. We can learn to see what is happening and not just ignore it. We can deeply look at it so our mind has a chance to evaluate the situation. We cannot take on every cause, donate to every fundraiser, or support every effort. But we can begin one person at a time. Help one person. Understand one family’s heartbreak. See one organization’s struggle. Learn what the issues are in your community. Grow your empathy muscle. Become one of ‘those’ people. Do the things you don’t have to do – because it matters. Just because it hasn’t happened to you (yet) doesn’t mean it isn’t a crisis.
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Pennie’s Life Lesson:
It’s the things you do that you don’t have to do
that makes the difference when it’s too late to do anything about it.
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