Columnist says make empathy priority in 2012

Julia DeCook

The emotion of empathy seems to be on a downward spiral.

The other night at Wal-Mart I noticed an old man who could barely walk, pushing a cart by himself.

Many people just walked by him without even offering to help. It was windy, cold and awful outside,yet nobody had the decency to help this old man.

What’s happening in today’s society that adds to this? You guessed it right from what I mentioned in a previous article: Internet. Phones. Being able to detach from the world no matter where you are.

I feel like an old woman even mentioning this, but maybe it’s because this generation (my generation) doesn’t have as much respect for the elderly as previous ones. We grew up in the age of the “self-esteem movement,” where we were promised we would all be famous or become astronauts.

Because of this self–esteem movement, myself and many other people were convinced that we were all special and different, that we need to do little to nothing to become successful in life.

But guess what: it was all a lie. In the word of Chuck Palahniuk’s Tyler Durden from Fight Club, “You are not a beautiful and unique snowflake. You are the same decaying organic matter as everyone else, and we are all part of the same compost pile.”

Even in Korea it’s becoming apparent and Korea is a country that prides itself on the traditional value of respecting elders. More and more kids are becoming self-entitled and care about nothing and no one but themselves.

I feel as though I’ve described most of the population. Not to offend, but it’s totally true. These days I see children saying things to their parents and essentially controlling them when it should be the other way around.

Does this mean that as generations go on, they’ll become less and less empathetic to other people’s situations? Are we, as a species, screwed? What will happen when nobody wants to help out strangers anymore?

I know that Tim Bundy employed the “handsome stranger with broken arm” trick to lure women into his van and then murder them, but for the most part helping really old people with their groceries in the Wal-Mart parking lot at 5 p.m. seems pretty safe.

The only way that we’re going to manage to be special and different in any form, if we want to be, is to give two damns about something other than ourselves.

Everyone that walked by that old man could have spared two minutes to help him with his stuff. But they didn’t. Even I didn’t.

What would happen in this community if you went out of your way to be nice to one stranger, once a day?

It doesn’t have to be cash donations or anything stellar, but even something as simple as a compliment to a stranger. Donating things you don’t need or use anymore. Helping older men and women with their grocery carts.

I really have no good way to end this article because I’m unimaginative and cannot come up with quotes as great as all of these brilliant men and women I admire, so here’s one from Ralph Waldo Emerson:

“To laugh often and much; to win the respect of intelligent people and affection of children; to earn the appreciation of honest critics and endure the betrayal of false friends; to appreciate beauty, to find the best in others; to leave the world a bit better, whether by a healthy child, a garden patch or redeemed social condition; to know even one life has breathed easier because you have lived. This is to have succeeded.”

Go. Make it easier for just one person to breathe.