Ordinarily strangers are not permitted within the inner sanctum of your personal space, let alone to touch you. Yesterday I was buying lotion and discussing pregnancy with the young man behind the counter who was serving me. As we said goodbye he reached out and touched my hand and wished me the best for my pregnancy. It was not a forced gesture, it didn’t feel hollow, needy or inappropriate. It was only after I left the store that I realised how rare it is for strangers to touch without feeling awkward or apologetic about it. We live in a society of separateness, where each person is considered a discrete entity; where boundaries exist and are enforced with menacing silence and suspicion governs the manner of interactions. But humans, in our most basic state, are not entirely disconnected from each other. We are held together by more than just cultural or geographic commonalities. We have more in common with one another than we have differences. The ability to empathise is a remarkable, and valuable attribute of humanity; it’s one of the reasons we read, tellstories, why people become medical technicians, teachers or even sales representatives. It’s why we want to reach out and touch a stranger, and why, nine times out of ten, that stranger will allow it.


About Sharon

Writer, bibliophile, dreamer and student of everything
This entry was posted in Humanity, JOURNAL ENTRY and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

8 Responses to Empathy

  1. vanyieck says:

    I firmly believe that loneliness is the great disease of humanity. We are such desperately lonely creatures and we devote inestimable time and effort to feel connected, even loved.

    • Sharon says:

      vanyieck, you are right about loneliness being a disease of humanity. I had never thought of it like that before. Perhaps we need to devote more time to real connections rather than seeking superficial ones.

  2. newt221 says:

    I am attending a Divorce Recovery workshop. Last night, one of the other women was really tearful. I wanted so much to reach out and offer a shoulder or just a consoling hug. But, I did not know how it would be received.

  3. jenniferneri says:

    I have come home often saying, something about pregnant women, people just love them. It is as if certain boundaries are broken down. Perfect strangers stop me and talk to me on the street. “How are you feeling? Morning sickness? BOy? Girl? First or second? (they never guess 3rd!) How many months?”
    It’s amazing, and then some reach out rub the belly! A few ask, most don’t…
    But then, it all stops, and once more I am just one of the crowd.

    • Sharon says:

      Jennifer, how odd that the barriers break down in the presence of new life. Meanwhile we go about teaching our young ones to keep to themselves.

      • Debbi says:

        I experienced similar episodes when I was pregnant. Once, I was in a liquor store buying a gift for a friend (believe me, I did not touch a drop of alcohol or caffeine during either of my pregnancies!) and a total stranger came up to me and patted my belly! I just smiled, but later, I thought, He would’ve NEVER touched my stomach if I weren’t pregnant! Imagine! But, I read once that pregnant women are viewed as sexless, so it is OK to touch them. To tell the truth, I enjoyed all the attention, but I have seen some pregnant women really get bent out of shape. I think the pregnant woman belongs to everyone…

        • Sharon says:

          Debbi, that does seem to be the case with pregnant women – everyone’s property. I’ve never touched a pregnant woman’s belly without invitation. It’s still her body and her personal space.

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