The Gift of Empathy
“‘The foreigner residing among you must be treated as your native-born. Love them as yourself, for you were foreigners in Egypt. I am the LORD your God.’” — Leviticus 19:34
Once there was a farmer whose dog had delivered a litter of puppies. The farmer put up a large sign that read “Puppies for Sale,” and the next day a young boy came to buy one. He proudly pulled out his money saying, “I have 39 cents. I hope that is enough.” Even though the farmer had in mind much more money than that, he kindly said, “That’s exactly how much they cost.”
The boy was so excited as the farmer opened the barn and out came the most adorable little puppies. “Which one do you want?” the farmer asked. Just then, one more puppy came hobbling along. It was clear that something was wrong with its hind legs.
The boy went straight for that puppy and said, “I’d like this one!” “No you don’t,” said the farmer, “Can’t you see he has something wrong with his legs?” The boy picked up his trousers to reveal metal braces on each of his legs. “So do I,” said the boy. “And he’s going to need someone who understands him.”
Don’t we all!
Everyone has some kind of disability. Usually it’s not something we can see or feel. It could be something that hurt us in the past or an internal struggle that we are dealing with in the present. Isn’t it wonderful when we find someone who has been through exactly what we are going through and can offer us support, guidance, and help?
Sometimes, we are blessed with that help, and other times God’s plan for us is that we overcome our hardships alone. However, we can always choose to use our own struggles to help others get through the same thing. We can bless others with the gift of empathy and sensitivity.
In this week’s Torah portion God commands us, “The foreigner residing among you must be treated as your native-born. Love them as yourself, for you were foreigners in Egypt . . .” Sometimes, we tend to forget what it was like to go through certain challenges in our lives, and we fail to use our experiences to help others through those very same difficulties. But God tells us to remember — to remember what it was like, to remember the pain and the suffering.
Remember what it was like to be lonely? Invite someone who is alone to your home or out for coffee. Remember the sleepless nights of early parenthood? Offer some new parents a respite and babysit while the couple goes out for dinner. Whatever it might be, you were once there. God pulled you through, now it’s your turn to pull someone else through.
The Gift of Empathy,