The Importance of Empathy.

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It took 65 million to build a single parking garage in universal studios. It took 400 million to just build Hogsmeade in the Wizarding World of Harry Potter, a tiny fraction of the entire part. It took so much more money to make the elaborate theme park designed to distract us from our lives. My brother is standing next to me listing off these facts as we stand by a Jurassic Park themed gift shop at Islands of Adventure.

I see people walk by in colorful tees and fanny packs, I overhear different accents and languages and people that are clearly foreign interact with each other in a way that’s all too familiar. I look around me and for a second I feel like I’m watching life unfold in a dystopian society. I’m living The Hunger Games as a character from The Capital.

I’ve won the genetic lottery, in my world my family can throw a thousand dollars to take their kids to a place that exists solely to allow individuals to escape. Fake forests, rivers, walls, buildings, stores. It’s a bubble of artifice that costs hundreds to enter and billions to build.

Standing in Hogsmeade, a place built with a budget that could transform the economy of a small country, I take a minute to wonder how many people’s lives would be affected if that money had instead been used to build schools or hospitals where there aren’t already. How much better would the world be if every person traded a little bit of greed for empathy?

I see a woman buying four shirts from a Harry Potter gift shop. I look around and see the assortment of clothes people around me are wearing for a second I feel my skin crawl.

What made us so special?

No one chooses where they’re born, pure luck gave you the life you have.

Why were we so lucky to hit the lottery jackpot? Why were we lucky enough to be born into places where we could have clothes on our backs and food in our stomachs?

How easily could have you been born in a village somewhere with no clean water or no food? How easily could’ve you been born with no family or a disability? And yet you likely have mainly working parts and the blessing of being alive.

Why are we the ones who get to wear the clothes instead of being one of the millions of people who work in awful conditions making them?

We treat the clothes made from hours of labor from individuals working in inhumane conditions with little pay like they’re disposable. Why did we end up being the consumers rather than the manufacturers?

I watched this documentary recently called ‘The true cost’, it goes in depth about fast fashion and the impact it has on humans around the world. Fast fashion not only increases materialism but also allows us to slowly shed our humanity in the interest of buying cheap clothes. Every day, in order to provide us with the lowest prices, the owners of factories around the world have to compromise on things like the safety and well-being of their employees.

None of the labor laws that require humane treatment of American employees are applicable overseas, so sweat shop workers are now in more danger than ever. Factories are collapsing at faster rates than ever because upkeep of infrastructure requires money that businesses don’t want to allocate to safety measures in the interest of maximizing profits. The documentary highlights one incident where a building in Bangladesh called ‘the Rana Plaza’ collapsed, killing 1,134 garment workers.

That’s 1,134 people.

That’s 1,134 families that’ll never be the same.

Watching the videos and accounts of the casualties in incidents like that one, I feel their hurt and pain. Each of those individuals had people that loved them, they had people that would see them every day, they had lovers, they had children. None of those lives will ever be the same.

We as humans are the same. Regardless of where we live or how much money we make, we feel the same emotions, love, anger, jealousy. Humans love the same wherever they are.

In the documentary, I see a garment worker’s family wait outside the chaos to see if their mom has made it out alive. There’re people weeping on the bodies of their loved ones, how easily could that be us? Imagine if our loved one was in their place.

This is real life.

People risk their lives, so others can dress themselves for less.

It’s so absurd to me.

We give up our humanity for dollar bills and dresses.

If the wealthy used their advantage and often luck to help those who didn’t hit the genetic jackpot, instead of trying to expand their own bank accounts, how different would the world be?

Imagine if instead of buying another top to add to a closet already full of clothes, you gave that $30 to buy food to donate for someone homeless. These aren’t individuals on another continent that are barely distinguishable from fictitious character but rather human beings without food in your own cities. As you sit with warm, clean food on your table, think of the people not too far from you, going to sleep hungry.

People are suffering everywhere but all it takes is a little bit of empathy to entirely change the world. And I really do mean tiny steps. If everyone donated a tiny bit every day, even a dollar, think of how much better the world could be.

The concept of hoarding money is absurd to me. You can’t take it with you to your grave and if you can help, why wouldn’t you? Just so you could have a higher number on your bank statement?

Don’t get me wrong, I understand the value of living comfortably and being able to travel and provide a good education for my kids but after that, I don’t understand. What more do I need? Do you not feel anything for whose lives that would be completely transformed if they got a daily allowance a hundredth of yours.

The woman slaving in a sweatshop to make the shirt you’re wearing now is just as human as you. The little boy going to sleep without food is just as human as you. The girl who hasn’t had her first period yet but is being forced to marry a man four times her age is just as human as you.

We are all equal. Our stomachs hurt when we’re hungry, we cry when life gets too much and we laugh when we’re happy. Most of all, we love the same. There’s nothing that inherently makes an upper class individual superior to a lower class one. There’s nothing that inherently makes an American individual superior to an African one. Humans are equal and it’s a matter of circumstances that puts us where we are.

It’s man-made borders that turn other humans from us to them. Children in the slums of Africa and Asia are like the children in our own homes. They deserve a chance at the same careless and innocent childhoods so many of us got to experience. Mothers in these countries weep just as hard when their kids die and pain is felt the same regardless of the name of the place on the map.

When we are born with blessings or when we work to earn a place in the world where we have the power to help those who can’t help themselves, I really can’t imagine why we wouldn’t take full advantage of that.

I think if people really sat down to think about the suffering, they would feel it. They’d find they have the empathy in them. I think we feel so detached from those suffering, helping them or trying to create change doesn’t seem fathomable or even something that can occur.

I really do believe that if a person sees what positive affect they can single handedly have on the world, they would add to the growing chain of love and empathy.

We can really change the world with tiny acts of love.

Love is infinite. It’s absolutely boundless. You can give and you can give and there’s still going to be plenty more. In fact, I’d say the more you give the more you feel you have to give.

Love not those directly around you but those across the globe who you likely won’t ever meet. Give love in the form of donations to non-profits, help build schools, hospitals, give these individuals the ability to stand on their own feet. Give love in the form of protests, don’t support stores that use what is practically slave labor, don’t buy meat from factories. Give love in the form of volunteerism, take action. There’re more opportunities to give back than you can imagine.

Give love to those around you, give love in each way imaginable.

The first step to loving is empathizing. It’s trying to imagine yourself in place of those suffering. It’s feeling their pain and knowing they are human just like you and I.

The day we lose our empathy is the day the human race is as good as gone. But in today’s world I see nothing but possibility. In the midst of all this hatred and fear, I see so many tiny people doing what it’s in their power to try to help.

As I’ve talked about before, I don’t know what I’m doing with my life but something I know for sure I want to channel this empathy into something. I want to show people the empathy and love already present in their own hearts.

Well after leaving Universal, I see a man wearing torn baggy clothes on a street corner near home, holding a “anything is appreciated” sign. A man in front of us rolls down his window and gives that man a dollar bill. My mom rolls down hers and gives him a bag of chips and in that moment,  I know the world will be alright.

2 thoughts on “The Importance of Empathy.

  1. I can’t stop reading…I can imagine your voice as if I’m listening to a podcast or as if you’re talking right in front of me. Loved this post! Keep up the good work!


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