Empathy can come natural to some, but less so to others. With the way that I was raised, I had to learn empathy and I had to learn it fast.
My mother was diagnosed with Scoliosis at 13, then Rheumatoid Arthritis (autoimmune disease) at 17, then Skin Cancer (melanoma) at 27. When I was born, empathy was practically the first thing I was taught. When I was in first grade in Connecticut, my mom had knee replacement surgery to help her walk since the cartilage was gone. When my dad tried to explain what my mom was getting the surgery for, I didn’t understand at all. I do give my dad credit for trying though. All I knew is that something was wrong and I felt sad for my mom because there are only a few emotions that a toddler can have: Happiness, sadness, anger, and envy. Then a few days after my mom was cleared to leave the hospital I saw her at the pickup circle next to her old, beat up Toyota Highlander on crutches. In my childish brain I knew people got off crutches when they were better, I was immediately reassured that she would be all better soon. But of course, kiddie logic wasn’t nearly as good as real logic. It took my mom almost a year till she could walk without crutches, a cane, or any rehabilitation. While she was healing I would kiss her knees because this is what my mom did when I had a “boo-boo.” I didn’t know I was being empathetic but I felt bad that my mom felt bad. As I grew up, so did my friends, and some of these friends didn’t possess what comes to mind when you think of “empathy.” They would act disrespectful to her and call her names behind her back instead of asking why she walked differently. When you hear some of your best friends saying bad things about your mom, it feels like there isn’t a real friendship.
Ultimately, throughout the years, my mother has learned to accept her physical limitations and differences, I’ve learned to accept them, and my true friends have learned to accept them as well.