We live in a world in which we need to share responsibility. It’s easy to say, ‘It’s not my child, not my community, not my world, not my problem.’ Then there are those who see the need and respond. I consider those people my heroes.”—Fred Rogers
By Apsara Chhetri
About 30,000 years ago, humans were unremarkable, medium-sized mammals not particularly strong or fast, lacking sharp teeth, claws, and wings. We weren’t even the only smart ape; five other large-brained species shared the planet with us but humanity did have something that set us apart from each other. More than any other species, sapiens worked together cooperatively which helped us become the mammal who quickly took over the planet.
Our collaborative characteristics are rooted in empathy: the capacity to share, understand, and care about what others feel. Individuals who feel empathy in abundance experience greater happiness and less stress and make friends more easily. These benefits ripple outwards, such as patients of empathetic doctors are more satisfied with their care, spouses of empathetic individuals are more satisfied in their marriages, children of empathetic are better able to manage their emotions and employees of empathetic managers suffer less from stress-related illness. Empathy strengthens our social wellbeing, encouraging generosity toward strangers, tolerance for people who look or think differently, then we do, and commitment to environmental sustainability.
People have the capabilities of feeling sympathy to others but it is empathy that is greater, a feeling that implies sharing the load pf someone or walking a mile in someone else’s shoe. Empathy is not sympathy. When we’re sympathetic, we often pity someone else, but maintain our distance physically, mentally, and emotionally from their feelings or experience. Empathy is more a sense that we can truly understand, relate to, or imagine the depth of another person’s emotional state or situation. It implies feeling with a person, rather than feeling sorry for a person. And in some cases that “person” is us.
As the scope of pandemic becomes evident and our daily lives are increasingly altered, the absolute need for us to act heroically with empathy, kindness, and compassion is ever-present. In times of emergency, providing empathy, kindness, and compassion to our fellow citizens is the single most important factor in surviving the initial stages of a disaster, limiting suffering, protecting the vulnerable, and quickly recovering in the aftermath of the crisis.
As we have seen, this virus is bringing out the best, and worst, in us. At its worst, we are witnessing people speaking out as fear, frustration, uncertainly and massive disruptions to our daily routines grow. With these, we see increases in victim-blaming, intolerance, hostility, and at its very worst, violence stoked by racism and the promotion of xenophobic beliefs. “The deep and simple is far more essential than the shallow and complex.” Even the simplest acts of kindness, compassion, and empathy are felt so deeply in times of uncertainty. No act is too simple, no moment too small, to bring comfort and healing.
An example where the people of Bhutan have come together to fight for a common cause. A strong sense of national solidarity is being exhibited by all sections of society. From farmers donating their hard-earned cash crops, to numerous people donating in both cash and kind to support the quarantine facilities. Businesses and hoteliers have offered their hotels to be used as quarantine facilities. People are volunteering in many ways to support the government response -volunteers providing meals to those working at the frontlines. The opposition provided its appreciation and support when in other countries the disease is being politicized. We as a community of shared future for mankind can support each other by taking strong global interventions, developing better coordination, cooperation, and solidarity in the joint efforts of fighting against COVID-19.
“Too often we underestimate the power of a touch, a smile, a kind word, a listening ear, an honest compliment, or the smallest act of caring, all of which have the potential to turn a life around.” – Leo Buscaglia
This article written by Apsara Chhetri, the APYouthS Ambassador of Bhutan, was submitted as a part of APYouthS’ Article Submission program. We are calling for enthusiastic and impassioned youths in Asia-Pacific who are willing to share their opinions on current situations of the world. Submit your article now through https://bit.ly/submit-writing-apyouths.
Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not reflect the official stance of Asia-Pacific Youth Service.