Empathy: How an Angry Woman Reminded Me About Its’ Importance

She was sitting, hunched in the corner near the trampoline. The two little girls in her charge were jumping and playing. Obvious to any observer, she was angry and in a bad mood. I sat near her as my daughter began enthusiastically jumping on the trampoline as well. One of her little girls came over and said loudly, “Hey, that lady is sitting too close to our spot,” as she pointed to me. The woman said in a snarky voice, “Yes, she is. Some people are just rude.”

My first thought was to stand up for myself but I stopped. I had a feeling her mood had nothing to do with me. I prayed for her and began a conversation with a friend on the other side of me.

After about 15 minutes the angry woman gathered her girls and approached me. She sat down and said, “I’m so sorry for that biting remark. My dad died this morning. When I found out, it was too late to call off work, so I’m nannying today. I’m watching these girls but all I can think about is my father.”

I immediately asked if I could hug her and as I did she wept on my shoulder. I cried with her and told her I lost my father too. Her bitter and angry facade crumbled to reveal her true feelings.

It was a good reminder for me. Give people the benefit of the doubt. You never know what they are facing. We are complex beings. Chances are you don’t know their full story.

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