I am the daughter of a baby-loving, hippie therapist. A woman who radiates compassion and generosity, whose philosophy of life is based around the idea that people act on their own feelings of self doubt. She taught me about empathy, but I never cared to listen. In elementary school, everytime I came home complaining about a mean girl, she would try to convince me that the girl was just acting on her own feelings of insecurity that had been shaped by her life, beginning with her infancy. For a ten-year-old, this never worked, and I would walk away feeling frustrated at my mom instead of the bully. I didn’t understand the vitality of empathy, and it took me an individual experience to do so.
Recently I sat with my best friend for almost an entire day in the emergency room. With nothing else to do, I observed the interactions among people, sisters or strangers, and sitting in that room full of pain and fear, I saw it expressed on people’s faces and in their actions. I started to wonder what was going on internally that made fathers snap at nurses or friends argue in such delicate moments.
The hospital was overcrowded that night, so my friend, Marissa, was brought to the maternity wing to sleep in a room with stork wallpaper. On my way to grab her a juice box, I came across the nursery: a tiny room with pink walls and fluorescent lights in which all eleven babies slept peacefully, tired from their journey into the world, their soft heads cradled in blue and pink beanies. Standing with my hands pressed against the window, I had a revelation. All those people I had seen today were once precious babies, innocent and pure. The way your life plays out shapes who you are, the hardships you endure and the lessons you learn create your identity. No one is genetically mean, they just act so because they don’t know another way. The criminal locked up in prison could have once been a premature baby in the NICU, struggling to survive the first nights on Earth. You can trace people’s actions back, beginning with their birth and it explains who they are.
Once again my mom was right: you must look for the humanity in people and remember the baby they began as.
This I believe.
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