Writing on Air

Writing on Air by Jim Paredes

Archive for May 6th, 2018

Saving others and saving ourselves 0

Posted on May 06, 2018 by jimparedes

HUMMING IN MY UNIVERSE – Jim Paredes (The Philippine Star) – May 6, 2018 – 12:00am

I mostly wear my heart on my sleeve. That means I readily express my feelings.

I tear up easily during emotional situations. I can cry while watching a movie. My empathy can be easily stoked. Yes, I do have my fair share of selfishness like everyone else, but I can also put myself in the shoes of others who have less in life. I am the type of person who expresses my outrage when I see injustice, discrimination.

While I often feel afraid to express my anger against authorities when I see corruption, dehumanization and evil at play, I almost always end up doing so because my empathy is oftentimes greater than my fear.

I “blame” my parents for the way I am.

Growing up, we saw our mom and dad open our doors to strangers and relatives who were in some sort of a bind and take them into our home. They often stayed with us a few days. Sometimes, some would stay for weeks, even months. Our parents fed them, nursed them, and took care of them till they were ready to go and live on their own again.

We had household help who stayed with us for decades. We treated them as family. One of them served us until she died. When she passed on, my mom gave her her own memorial plan for her to use.

Our parents’ example influenced us a lot.

We are 10 sibs in the family, and we are all our parents’ children. Coming from a big family ingrained in us the practice of sharing what we have and living with less. You learn to divide things equally. It also means that you learn to care and look after each other. In the process, you develop a greater sense of love, fairness and justice.

I have no sibs who are indifferent to suffering. We all see suffering and injustice as a big deal. We don’t always stop in our tracks every time we see suffering but we have an almost instant empathy towards people who are in bad situations. You might say we all wear our hearts on our sleeves.
I often think of what moves people to get out of themselves and really begin to think of others. One mover is pity. We see people in pain and we feel sorry for their lot. Sometimes, strangely, it is accompanied by a feeling of gratitude. We may be profoundly moved to tears but thankful and relieved it is other people who suffer and not us.

Empathy is a deeper engagement. Psychology Today defines it as, “the experience of understanding another person’s thoughts, feelings and condition from their point of view, rather than from your own.” You try to imagine yourself in their place in order to understand what they are feeling or experiencing.It moves you out of your own world and you find yourself wearing the shoes of the sufferer and feel their pain as yours.

Compassion goes even deeper. I found many definitions of compassion on Google. I quote one: “Compassion literally means ‘to suffer together.’ Among emotion researchers, it is defined as the feeling that arises when you are confronted with another’s suffering and feel motivated to relieve that suffering.” There is a strong component that we must not miss here. Compassion moves one not just to pity and empathy but to actually take action. You not only feel another person’s pain but you also do something about it.

Every time I see an appeal for contributions to save Syrian kids, or helping refugees in Marawi, or see the injustice brought about by EJK, I ask myself what I can do about it. Often, my immediate reaction is to say a prayer.

Images of suffering stare back at us from our monitors daily. The problems often seem so overwhelming that many times, you just want to move on to other more pleasant stories or funny news. You often justify your inaction by asking yourself what you can realistically do to effectively alleviate suffering of that magnitude. While we excuse ourselves by saying one can only do so much, we must remind ourselves that one can still do something, however small and seemingly insignificant.

I have learned to fight that feeling of helplessness by talking and meeting like-minded people who want to take action instead of copping out and just being indifferent. I am not content with just shaking my head and resignedly whispering, “Too bad for the victims.” Or say “That’s life,” and dismiss the suffering. When we do not act, there is a great chance that our capacity to care will lessen and our hearts become leaden. I would rather do something, anything — however small — that can relieve pain and encourage people to overcome their situation than nothing at all.

To be really concerned about something, our presence, empathy and compassion and action are needed. One is not being asked to solve the problems of the world by his/her lonesome. We can do much by being supportive of efforts that are already in place working to help others. We certainly need to go beyond Facebook, Twitter and social media to move the world closer to become a better place.

Activism is so important today. There is a battle going on for the soul of this nation, and of the world. Online is one battlefield. The other is the real world outside. Some people say that going to the streets is not their thing. But the truth is, when good people do nothing, the bad and the evil are emboldened to do more.

Pity, empathy and compassion mean we feel the pain of those who are treated unjustly and we commit to action to help them. This way we also weaken their oppressors and perhaps lessen the suffering in daily living. When we save others, we also save ourselves.

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