A Lesson in Empathy

Yesterday my husband and I went to the  imaging center, as he needed a CT scan (no worries, not an emergency). The nurse called him in, and said I should come too. She led us to a small room, which accommodates six people. Two patients were there, waiting for their tests.

The younger man (I’ll call him John), was in his late 30s. He wore shorts and a tank top, his legs covered with tattoos. The older man (I’ll call him Bill), was a large man, in his 50s. He was dressed in a hospital gown. I got the feeling they wanted to keep to themselves, which was fine. It felt crowded, and I wished I could go back to the spacious lobby. But I settled in and hoped we didn’t have to wait too long.

Something unexpected happened. Bill started to ask John questions about why he was there. It turns out they both have severe back problems and both have a hard time walking. John has had multiple back surgeries over the past ten years. He said he rarely goes anywhere, that it was difficult to get there for his scan. John told us the best thing he never did was get married and have kids. He said it’s better that way, because he couldn’t have taken care of a family. I thought that was sad. He’s alone with all that pain.

Bill said he drives and gets around okay. But he hurts a lot and can’t golf or play baseball, which he used to love. It was a strange coincidence when both men realized the sport they miss the most is boxing. They sounded defeated, knowing they would never be able to box again.

As the men compared stories and explained how poor their quality of life is, my husband and I looked at each other and thought the same thing. Wow. We never would’ve guessed these men were in such challenging situations.Their back injuries severely limit their lives. So much joy is gone.

John got called for his scan. My husband and I continued to talk with Bill, and found out he has a cat that he takes everywhere. The nurses were watching him at the front desk. The cat is an emotional support animal. We talked about our families, laughed a little, and got out our phones to show each other pictures of our dogs.

My experience reminded me of the Kindness Challenge, hosted by Niki of The Richness of a Simple Life. Last week was Week 3 of the challenge. Here are some of Niki’s prompts:

  • Use everyday opportunities to practice acting out of kindness
  • Be kind in thoughts, actions, and words
  • Remember kindness comes in many forms: courteousness, generosity, thoughtfulness,  sympathy, empathy.

As I listened and talked with Bill and John, I thought about how kindness comes in different forms. Like sympathy. And empathy. The definition of empathy is the understanding of and the identification of another’s  feelings. That’s how I can best describe what I was feeling in that tiny waiting room. We connected.

In that short time, and in an unlikely place, Bill and John touched my life. I’ll continue to think of them. I’ll pray they get relief from their pain and that they’ll experience more happiness.


First image courtesy of

Second image courtesy of




57 thoughts on “A Lesson in Empathy

  1. Great post! I can’t imagine going through a rough season in my life without my husband by my side. I’m an independent woman, and I like to do most things for myself, but it brings me great comfort to know that I have someone who is willing to drop everything when I need him. Sounds like that’s who you are to your hubby as well. 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

    • Thanks Michelle! I completely agree with you. My husband is my best friend, and is always there to comfort me. That’s what made me sad, it would be so hard for me without him. Thanks for your nice comment! ☺️💕

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Jenny what a beautiful post. I really felt everything you were saying and it touched me. We are all dealing with something in life, and often someone’s else’s problem is worse than ours. Worse, will be having to deal with the problem alone, like in ‘John’s’ case. I hope all went well with your husbands CT scan, I am so pleased you both have each other. Have a lovely day and a great weekend. 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

  3. Thank you so much for sharing this story Jenny, what a great example of one of kindness in one of its many forms! I’m so glad that you are participating in this challenge and love reading how it impacts your daily life. I hope you have a great weekend and a beautiful week ahead filled with kindness in all of its forms! ❤

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Amazing and wonderful magical times happen in the most unusual places….I am betting that you both made there week not just day a lot better my reaching out and engaging in conversation….your both angels for sure…hope hubby is ok……xxkat

    Liked by 1 person

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  6. I felt that being kind to others is important in this cruel life of ours. All of us have our own demons and battles that we fought but we should not feel entitled or selfish and always remind ourselves to treat others with kindness. Treat others like how you want to be treated. ❤

    Liked by 1 person

    • Exactly! What you said reminds me of Tim McGraw’s song, Humble and Kind. There’s a line, “I know you’ve got mountains to climb but always stay humble and kind.” We all are fighting different struggles, but can still be kind 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

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