Empathy boost

Dear President Trump,

Yesterday as I was crossing the parking lot at work to get to my building I found a small, folded piece of notebook paper with what looked like a letter written on it. I think rather than being a letter, it’s actually the text of a short speech someone wrote for a beloved aunt’s special birthday celebration. The writer refers to how the aunt’s stern, consistent reinforcement of discipline and attention to schoolwork helped her whole family succeed. Seeing as I was in the parking lot of the VA, I think the writer is a Veteran or perhaps works for the VA. I am also pretty sure the writer is a young woman and that her last name is Lam as she refers to the “Lam family” several times in her comments. She says she didn’t appreciate or understand her aunt’s insistence on excellence when she was a child but sees now it was a gift. It also sounds like the rewards of “chocolate rocks” after several hours of study helped quite a bit. I hope she isn’t missing that slip of paper too much. My sense is that what she wrote to say about her aunt is almost as familiar to her as breathing and she won’t have any trouble recreating it or just saying it by heart.

The reason I’m holding this up as a good news sort of thing to tell you about is that it was lovely to get an unexpected glimpse into someone else’s life and family workings through that short bit of text about an anonymous aunt who helped steer the children of the family in positive directions. Lam is usually a Chinese name and though of course I could be wrong, the cadence and tone of the speech seem to me to be from a second generation person’s perspective so it feels all the more special that it gives me a tiny window into a very different family experience than my own. Actually, just the fact of having an aunt there to oversee homework done at grandma’s house is vastly different from my upbringing aside from whether her family is originally from China. I wish there were more such scraps of paper with random, unguarded writing on them for empathy boosts since we so need them to break down our us/them barriers.

May we be safe to share bits of ourselves with strangers.
May we be happy to receive those bits.
May we be healthy enough to see the beauty in those bits.
May our lives unfold and be enriched by curiosity about those around us.

Tracy Simpson

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