Evelyn and Empathy

March 5, 2017

After talking with Jerry, I spoke with Evelyn, Jerry’s wife and retired pathologist. She too spoke about the importance of empathy as a personality trait.

 

“I too am very sensitive to other people’s feelings, so I can understand or try to understand what others feel. It just...it just breaks my heart that this world is going in the direction that it’s going but it’ll straighten out. There has to be hope for you guys. That’s what we do for the next generation: we support you and have faith that you’ll be the ones that change society.

 

Evelyn sentiments about worsening state of the world were not unique to her. In my many conversations with senior citizens and residents at various elderly homes, I have found that many people believe that the status quo is worse than the decades that have preceded it. What is responsible for this belief? This idea is particularly surprising to me considering that most of the people I have spoken to have lived through World War II. It is definitely concerning when people with that perspective insist that we currently live in a substandard society.

 

Their sentiments might be mere pessimism, but we, the upcoming generation, should truly look deep into the problems today and find solutions when the elderly who have seen decades pass with their own eyes advise us to. Much of the problems that they faced in the past -- racial and gender inequality, middle eastern politics -- echo into the problems of today. While previous generations have seen the end to de jure segregation, racial tensions still plague communities across the nation. The refugee crisis has numerous countries in debate. The threat of terrorism is becoming even more prevalent. We should heed the words of the people who conquered the issues of the previous generation so that we may have a better chance of conquering our own.

 

On a brighter note, Evelyn also discussed the joys of her life and some advice she would give to all people from any generation.

 

“I enjoy my life thoroughly. I love music and studying. I like to broaden my mind. As a pathologist, I didn’t earn that much money, but I truly enjoyed my work because I was always learning something new. I don’t know if I can instill that joy in my grandchildren and great grandchildren but be kind to yourself and be kind to your family.”

 

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"To forget the elderly is to ignore the wisdom of the years"

                         - Donald Laird