Sunday, January 10, 2010

The Magic of Empathy

Love someone who doesn't deserve it. – Unknown

When I saw that quote I wondered, how can we judge if someone doesn't deserve to be loved? Wouldn't that be kind of cruel - to make the decision that another human being doesn't deserve love? Seems to me like that decision would be the foundation for war and violence and all sorts of nasty things.
But, still, it made me think about something that happened many years ago.

There was a period of time in my life when I was a homemaker. I had a small child and I was fortunate enough to be able to choose to stay home with her. That bit of good fortune didn't come with a lavish lifestyle. My husband had a decent job that paid the bills, but we lived paycheck to paycheck. I was thrifty and skilled at making things, however, which helped us to live better than we might have otherwise. It especially helped at Christmas, because I made most of our gifts.

One year, it was 1989 to be precise, my teenage niece wanted a hard to come by tapestry vest for Christmas and I decided to make her one. I knew of a warehouse type store in a remote part of the Pocono Mountains that sold upholstery material, ends and pieces from factories, and I managed to find just what I needed. Everything else, the pattern, the silk, the buttons and buckle, I found in town. I was already working against the calendar because I had been so busy making presents and cards for other people. I wasn't sure I would have the vest made in time to mail it to Florida for Christmas. It was a complicated piece of clothing and would take great skill.

After a few nights of working on it when my daughter was in bed, I started to run into trouble. Things wouldn't line up right. I knew I could only sew and pick out the stitches so many times before the fabric was ruined. I was devastated because I wanted so badly to give this gift to my niece and make her happy. I was up late trying to solve the mystery of how to get the lining and vest to match when breaking news came over the television.

The United States had sent troops to Panama to find and apprehend Manuel Noriega, a man despised and feared for his ruthless dealings and total disregard for life. There was a lot of controversy over the invasion and somehow Noriega had escaped capture. They suspected he might be hiding in an embassy of the Catholic Church. I was listening to all this on CNN, working on the vest, thinking about all the terrible things I had heard about this man, and suddenly I felt pity for him. I was kind of shocked at myself, really. This was a person whom, by all popular standards, deserved no pity from anyone. I guess it was the idea of someone hiding in a religious facility that got me. I had read about other people who had asked for refuge in a church, but mostly it seemed like something for stories.

The vest continued to frustrate me as I worked it and reworked it. All the while I listened to the reporters and anchormen talking about the rumor, trying to confirm it without success. I thought about that man hiding, full of fear, finally humbled, and something came over me. I got down on my knees and I prayed for him. I prayed for God to have mercy on him and help him to have a change of heart so no one else would be hurt. Then I went back to my sewing project.

From the moment I picked up the vest and started back to work, things began to change. It was like some enchantment had been woven over my hands and everything began to come together perfectly. It was quick work after that. If it had been that easy from the start, I might have opted to make one for myself. But, I knew it wasn't my skill that made it come together. I knew it was that tiny, minuscule act of love for another human being, just because he was a human being and for no other reason, that the vest project had in the end become an easy task. The magic of that love and empathy had come back to me instantly.

I think I remember that my niece didn't get her vest until after Christmas. I'm told she loved it anyway and wore it with pride. I know it stayed in her closet many years, even after it was out of style and too small.

Funny how that quote by an unknown person could make me remember that odd experience. But, I do understand how some people might be thought undeserving of love or even sympathy. I think, however, since the quote's author is unknown, I shall take the liberty of adding to it.

Love someone who by opinion doesn't deserve it and know that your love is not wasted.


  1. Thanks for another great read. Compassion & empathy our the greatest gifts we can give to another & I believe everyone "deserves" both of these wonderful emotions. If we all let go of judgment & loved a little more the world would be a better place. Thank for helping to life the world up with your love.



  2. Thanks for being apart of my life. I have included you in my list of "10 blogs I like" here:
    If you wish to participate, simply list 10 things that make you happy and pass on the award to 10 other blogs (or vlogs) that you like. Thanks & hugs.