I used to think that some people were cold- hearted and that they would never truly respect the feelings of another. There are just so many people in this world who are nasty, ignorant, and selfish that it seemed almost impossible to believe that beneath all that, those people really did have a soul. Well one day all that changed.
Last summer, all of the upcoming ninth graders who were going to be confirmed, went to a retreat in wildwood for the weekend. One of the group leaders asked a question that I laughed at. She asked, “Do you think you know the person sitting next to you?” Not only could I tell you about the person sitting next to me, I could tell you about all the people in the room. I have been with this same group of kids all through middle school. I could point out the jocks, the comedians, and the brainiacs. I could tell you who were taking this speech seriously, and who were texting and not even listening. Of course I knew these people! Or so I thought.
Later that night, during “adoration,” the group leaders said things would get emotional. They said that God was going to work within each person’s soul if we let him. I don’t know how it all began, but at one point I took a look around the room, and I saw something truly amazing. Here were all these teenagers, bawling their eyes out, hugging, embracing, and praying together. As I took in the emotions on people’s faces, I truly understood them. I felt how they were hurting, and suddenly they weren’t that same one- dimensional person anymore. The group leader was right. I didn’t know everyone in that room. There was so much more I hadn’t discovered. I never felt anything so powerful and overwhelming in my life.
I then made eye contact with someone who I would have bet all my money would not cry in public. And I was positive there were tears in his eyes as he acknowledged me for the first time with an empathetic, hopeful smile. I would personally like to thank that person, because that one little smile changed me.
Of course once the weekend was over, everyone acted like nothing happened. But I felt a change. Although I didn’t speak to some of those people ever again, I felt something more when I looked at them. I gained a new affection for them, and every time I just wanted to scream at them, I reminded myself that they too have feelings.
I now believe in the soul and the power of unspoken empathy. Emotions are ten times more powerful than words. During that whole episode, not one word was uttered. Because there wasn’t any need. I felt the connection in the air, one soul to another.
And so now, as I walk through the hallways, I try to see beyond the physical appearance. And I try to smile at strangers, because I know that deep down there is a sensitive soul. And who knows? That simple little smile might just change their life; just like that boy’s changed mine.
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