A Thought on Empathy
By Josh Fillmore
Several years ago, a neighbor of mine was driving down the busy road in front of our house. On our street we have a real problem with speeders and for years my good neighbor had been doing everything he could to help slow down the traffic. On this particular day, he was driving when suddenly a car came speeding up behind him, basically attaching himself to my neighbor’s bumper. My neighbor is from New York and being the good New Yorker that he is, thought to himself, “If you’re gonna speed in my neighborhood I’ll show you how slow I can go!” and he slowed down to 10 miles per hour. He proceeded to drive at that speed all the way to where our street ends at a busy intersection, a distance close to ¾ mile. Upon arriving at the traffic light, the speeder pulled around my neighbor into the other lane that opened up. As he did so my neighbor rolled down his window to engage in pleasantries but was surprised to see that the driver of the car was his other neighbor. This man rolled down his window and said, “Hey, how’s it going? It’s good to see you! Anyway, the baby’s coming and I’m racing my wife to the hospital. See you later!” It was then that my neighbor noticed in the passenger seat this man’s very pregnant wife trying desperately to not have her baby in the car.
Whenever I recall this story it cracks me up. However, as I have thought about it more recently, it struck me how it applies to this current moment we’re living in. It often seems that we have lost the ability to empathize with one another, to see things from someone else’s perspective and walk in their shoes. Sometimes we do this despite good intentions. Both of my neighbors had good intentions behind their actions. One was driving slowly because he was concerned for the safety of the kids in our neighborhood. The other was speeding because he was trying to get his wife to the hospital. The problem was that neither of them knew the intentions of the other. We run into trouble when we assume to know someone else’s motives. This is unfair to both parties and often leads to suspicion, anger and worse. It is helpful to remember that most people are great, and we can find common ground with just about anybody if we work at it. How much better could our world be if we would remember the wise words that, “The greatest charity comes…when we simply give each other the benefit of the doubt.”
Josh Fillmore was born in Chicago but has called Provo home since he was 11 years old. He graduated from BYU with a degree in International relations which proved helpful when he formed his own international relation with his wife of 24 years, Roberta, who is from Brazil. They have 3 sons ranging in age from 22 to 9. Josh is the president of Medical Outreach Corp, a company that works with local health care providers to assist their patients who don’t have insurance find financial assistance. Josh loves Rocky, 80’s hair bands and the Utah Jazz.
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