I Confess: My Pathetic Empathy

Since I left college, I have always held a professional role that required me to serve others.

First, it was higher education. Certainly not Ivy League, but more like Harvard on Halsted. At the community college, I served local individuals through academic programming models that were designed to  literally transition under-prepared, low-income, first-generation students to academic scholars in a few short years. halsted

It was difficult. Not to mention, many of the students we served found us while eating at the McDonald’s across the street, looked up, saw the college, and walked in as a student. We had to meet people were they were…and that took a lot of empathy.


Everyone has a story.

Everyone has a past.

Some are privileged.

Most are not.

And in the field of human services, you must listen for understanding in order to effectively help someone.

Well lately, that’s been a struggle for me.

I posted this image the other day.


The story behind this message was centered on my daily reminder that you have to be kind to people. You never know what trials and tribulations a person has faced before they gained the courage to stand before you. If you work in social/human services, this is especially important for you to understand.

Now, I work for a youth-centered, workforce development program. Recently, I met with a youth that has been struggling to maintain work. He has made some irresponsible decisions, and to be honest, I lost my cool with him. I found myself getting on his case in a way that is outside of my norm. I had to make myself stop, take a breather, and think about my next choice of words before I spoke again.

Finally, I asked the right question, that produced the answer I needed, in order to better serve him. It’s simple emotional intelligence. But I let my own personal thoughts and opinions distract me from doing what was best for him.

A former college peer commented on the post and mentioned apathy. apathy

Yes, let’s talk about that. It is the exact opposite of empathy. Many of us are walking around with an apathetic disposition, yet we wonder why the world is the way it is today. Let’ face it. Your concern (or lack thereof) for others is what drives your community. We can’t build better communities if we don’t care.

I encourage you to listen to others.

I mean really listen.

Read between the lines. Be patient. Empathize with others, as one day, you may need someone to do the same for you.

Every young person I serve is an older version of my own child. So, I try to keep him in mind when I work with someone else’s child. I pray that my son maintains his spirit of empathy. His generation is going to need it.

It is our responsibility to instill those values in our children. We have to do better.

Including me.


Dr. Lauren Meeks

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4 thoughts on “I Confess: My Pathetic Empathy

  1. Dr. Meeks,
    Thank you for the gentle reminder regarding our empathy, particularly for those who sit on the OTHER side of our respective desks. We meet them where they are and for those truly comitted to the cause of serving under-represented populations, we serve them in like fashion as we would desire to receive! Continued best wishes!
    – Dr. Shawn L. Govan

    Liked by 1 person

  2. This is a great post, ship! What came to mind is that the world is much larger than our own personal problems and showing empathy to one soul can be transformative. I will keep that in mind. I think we are so used to doing our own thing, moving about in the world like zombies without taking into consideration the feelings of others. Thank you for sharing! -Ms. Kris

    Liked by 1 person

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