Kellie has given me the opportunity to write this exercise, and I want to thank her for opening my mind.
When it comes to empathy, I feel like I live it without realizing it. Taking care of others is a very rewarding job. You connect with their feelings, you gain the understanding of how they feel and you see what is important to them at this time of their life.
Taking care of my brother, Al, is probably my best test in having empathy. Al is mentally challenged, has heart problems, and also is diagnosed and fighting with Parkinson’s.
I have to be able to climb out of my skin and enter my brother’s soul. It reminds me of the scene in the movie Ghost, where you actually see a film, ghost-type entering and exiting Whoopie Goldberg’s body.
I plan doctor’s appointments, take my brother to all of the appointments, talk with each doctor, and make changes with medications and goals, in order to keep Al feeling his best.
I am constantly thinking of ways to help his day have moments of joy and laughter. We go shopping, that includes only his interests. We go to eat at restaurants, trying to go where he enjoys going.
I clean the house, do his laundry, change his bed sheets, cook his meals, pay his bills, all parts of our daily life skills are practiced here.
Then there are the times in between, when I have to enter his mind, his soul, and his pains. I have to stop my own mental thinking, and imagine what he is going through. Understanding where the tears are stemming from. Imagine how his pain feels. Feel his humility when his body freezes, and help him to walk once again. I have to understand how it feels to try to use a fork or a spoon, to eat, something we have done our entire lives, but now, it becomes a struggle to keep food on the utensils.
Empathy is comprehending that it is alright for him to curse or get mad when food falls to the floor, and he realizes it. When Al wet his pants the other day, I had to instantly transfer myself into his mind, and feel what he felt when he was forced to walk out of the restaurant bathroom and show me his wet pants.
When Al yells at the newscasters on the TV for showing the weather more than once. He calls them idiots, or stupid. He doesn’t understand the aspect of how they show it twice so that more audiences can catch the weather. His mind is simplified, and I need to get inside to understand this and to be able to say something to him, that brings him to the realization, that I get what he is saying.
Dealing with all of these illnesses that are in one body, is a challenge. If this were a job being paid by an employer, I would not be paid too many times, because it is difficult and tests every part of our being. I think this type of work tests the nerves and can cause much stress.
You have to have a heart, compassion and empathy to enter this type of work. It takes transferring your thoughts into their thoughts, the skill of listening, and the passion for understanding. For me, I would not trade it for the highest paying job in the world, and I would not miss out on each day my brother lives. I want him to know that I love him, that I am here for him and that I do my best at understanding his views in life.