A Plea for Empathy

Today let’s pretend I’m an elementary school teacher. Here’s today’s lesson. The definition of empathy is as follows: the ability to understand and share feelings of another. Now it’s time for addition.

59 plus 525 equals 584.

On Sunday October 1st  of 2017 about 59 people were killed and roughly 525 injured in Las Vegas, horrifying the entire world. Who could cause all this horror?

Just one man.

Now on to some history. Currently the FBI defines a mass killing as “the killing of three or more people in a public place.” Many headlines following the event read: “Largest Mass Shooting in the modern era.” The modern era… meaning the era after the civil war. The civil war ended in 1867. America has not seen this much death via gun warfare since a war fought on plantation fields about slavery. Electricity was invented in 1879. Air conditioning emerged in 1902. America has not seen this much death since we lived in candle lit rooms with no air-conditioning. A man, ONE man named Stephen Paddock, has single handily redefined the word mass shooting.

People during times of death and mourning tend to turn to numbers and facts. It removes the pain and hurt out of things—makes it easier, stoic.

So here are the facts. It has been 152 years since the civil war. 584 men and women were injured or killed. 1 man did all of this.

Let’s go back to our word for the day: empathy. As Atticus Finch from To Kill A Mockingbird would say, “climb into someone’s skin and walk around in it,” a quote that encapsulates empathy.

Every Monday morning, my friend and I go for a walk. My alarm went off at 7:25 and as I hit that familiar snooze button a glaring red banner titled “News” caught my attention: “50 and counting dead after mass shooting in Vegas.”

Then I started to weep. Now, I’ve never described myself as a “weeper” ever before in my life. Although I am sort of a sentimental person (I surprisingly get this from my father), I had never wept until this tragic news. But I wept. I wept for the 59 lives lost and 525 injured. I wept for their family and friends. I wept for the country.

The clouds wept on that drizzling dreary Monday in Austin. The country wept for one another. My heart just hurt. America’s heart hurt. We all felt empathetic for the one’s impacted in Vegas. Empathy—a basic human trait, or so one would hope.

I can’t help but think, if we all took Atticus’ advice, climbed into someone else’s skin and walked around for a while, maybe there would be a little bit less hate in our current world. Maybe if Stephen Paddock, one man, took a second to pause and consider empathy it would have been a regular Monday morning stroll in Austin and a typical hangover in Sin City.