Monday, February 17, 2014

Empathy in the Real World

Last night all of America grimaced as we watched Bode Miller endure a very uncomfortable--and tactless--interview. My heart went out to him. I was saddened by the story of his brother's death, so glad he medaled, and so sorry that he had to be subjected to a slew of inconsiderate questions at such a vulnerable moment. I--along with many others--simply couldn't understand why someone could be so thoughtless in the face of such intense grief.

It's not the first time in the last week that I've had the subject of grief on my mind. Recently I've been pondering the reality of pain in a media-soaked culture. We make connections with hundreds of people--both close friends and random strangers--every day via social media. This exponentially increases our chances of encountering another person's pain or grief. Last week, on the same day, a friend of mine posted on Facebook the news that she'd lost an old friend to cancer while another woman, who I know only via her Instagram feed, posted about the memorial service being held for her daughter who was stillborn at 37 weeks. And I started thinking: How often do we scroll past the pain in our feeds? I know I'm guilty of it. It saddens me to think that I'm more likely to shed a tear for a fictional character in a book or film than I am for the real live people I see experiencing real live pain.

I'm not saying we do it because we're cruel or indifferent or uncaring. We do it because grief is uncomfortable. Pain is uncomfortable. Especially when you've never experienced personally what another person is going through. We don't know what to say, we fear saying the wrong thing, and so we skip over those posts, those tweets, without saying anything at all.

As an author I want to evoke emotions in my readers. And that's not a bad thing. My own favorite books and movies are the ones that make me laugh, or cry, or--preferably--both. But I never want to feel more empathy for a fictional character than I do for the real people that I encounter each day.

I would challenge you--challenge us--to stop next time we're tempted to scroll a little faster. Don't shove empathy aside. Instead, take the time to hit "comment" or "reply". It can be as simple as saying "I'm sorry you're going through this." Or "You're in my thoughts." No words? Even an emoticon heart is better than silence.

And that's the great thing about the internet and this crazy online community that has become part of our reality: While it gives us more opportunities to be confronted with pain and grief, it also gives us more opportunities to do something about it.

Let's not waste it.

Monday, February 10, 2014

Patience is Better (Unless You're a Zombie)

I follow a lot of book agents and writers on Twitter and it seems like lately my feed has been filled with a whole lot of  "I have an agent!" announcements and book cover reveals and publishing day congratulations. All of this has been equal parts inspiring, motivating, and painful. Seeing someone else reach their goal can make yours seem so very, VERY far away. And let's just say that patience is not my strongest quality. So for today's Picture Quote Monday I set out to find an inspiring quote about being patient and all its benefits, because I know for a fact I'm not the only person who struggles with this. I found plenty, such as this one: "Still achieving, still pursuing, Learn to labor and to wait." -Longfellow. And this one: "Patience is bitter, but its fruit is sweet." -Rousseau. But sometimes, when you're in the midst of a difficult lesson, you just need a giggle.

Which is why I picked this one.


Unless, of course, you're a zombie.