I remember our church was having an event to raise awareness for the homeless. Young students slept outside on the sidewalk for one night. While I wanted to celebrate the effort (anything is better than nothing) it was hard for me get on board. This was not homelessness. This was camping. This was going to bed knowing the next day you would go home. To a home. To the security of running water and soft beds. To the security of tomorrow and the day after that.
My brother in law became a US citizen this week. This is big! Huge! I can’t say exactly how long it took, but more than twenty years in the making. He has lived in the US for years – but today he is home.
The thing is, we think we know. We don’t know. Until we go through it. So how do we create empathy? We can’t possibly live out every situation to really know how it feels. But we can listen. We can read. We can be open.
I suppose I was guilty of it, before moving to France. I didn’t understand what it is like to live in another country. Be a stranger. To be singled out. To be a minority. And I’m one of the lucky ones. I have every advantage at my fingertips. I wasn’t fleeing. Running. Hiding. I was moving for love. And yet, I experienced the fear, the uncertainty. I know millions of people feel this daily. Some are unwelcomed because they are immigrants. Others because of the color of their skin. Their religion. Their social status. Reason after reason.
But being empathetic is not merely feeling the pain of others. Being empathetic means you also get to feel the joy. And maybe that’s the hook. Seeing the special. Not discriminating. Not tolerating. But celebrating. Different doesn’t have to be bad. Shouldn’t have to be bad.
So today we celebrate. We welcome my brother in law to this giant experiment. I am in France. He is in the USA. Neither of us camping. Bravo, Pascal!
Joie de vivre!