Despite the many good news that 2012 has brought, it has taken away two dear friends. One was a friend from high school. Another was a friend from my first graduate school, and she left two weeks ago, at 34.
It is astounding how contagious joy and pain are. We all share stories of good fortune with each other to impart some semblance of hope and lighten what may be a rough Monday morning, family stress or a bad dating streak. Empathy allows us to feel what the other person is feeling, with no rational explanation. Even on social media, big news like job promotions, pregnancies and engagements garner dozens and hundreds of shares and “likes.” For a reason. Good news travels. We all like good news.
When teaching English, I sometimes asked my students what they, as kids, wanted to be when they grew up. As they wrote quietly, the air in the classroom would thicken, almost buzzing with a childlike enthusiasm and immense, hopeful joy. You could weave a turbo-powered cloak straight out of Harry Potter with that energy!
Similarly, in meditation classes I took, the teacher used to “throw” certain emotions at individual students. Sitting there in a state of trance with eyes closed, students would easily identify and react to that exact emotion. That’s empathy in action.
Sadness, too, has the wings to traverse the globe in seconds. The recent news ruptured like a flash flood, affecting people from coast to coast and across continents.
As I walked around DC after returning from the memorial, I took note of every leaf glowing in the sunlight, of friends and lovers relaxing over mimosas at sidewalk cafes, of toothless toddlers in wide-brimmed hats, stumbling and picking right back up, giggling. I wished Ch. could see it. And it reminded me how much I’ve got to be grateful for, because I can see it. And so can my loved ones.
We cannot control the fragility around us. But we can be thankful for the amazing people in our lives. We can count our blessings and express them. We can become those human channels of joy for one another, bursting with contagiously good tidings. The world depends on every single day. For there is so much to be grateful for if we just start looking.