Wow! I found this in my archive. I wrote it in 2006- on my return to school after the experience- and had it saved in my email box. I would love to share. Good thing: my baby brother survived! He is now grown and writing his JSCE . Enjoy the read!


Behind me were two health workers in uniform- whom I am  still trying to place their designation- gossiping, “That is what they get when they use abortion pills. It doesn’t go down well with some of them.” “Do they ever listen? God has a way of punishing them anyway. Now see what has become of her” My brain enlarged as I moved towards their subject. Others waiting for the pharmacists’ calls sat at a distance, but I walked closer and sat by her. This 16 or at most 18-year-old was an epitome of beauty- nothing but a damsel, but who cared? Her baby felt like a curse after all.

“Good morning dear,” I said. She looked at me in surprise. I perceived the last time she was called “Dear” was ages ago, but I gave a warm smile instead. “Your baby is beautiful, can I carry her?” She shook her head in disapproval, and I understood why. Honestly, the about-8 months-old baby was deformed. Part of the baby’s face was covered by hair, her eyes were out of place; then she had tiny arms and feet like those of a seal. There were other abnormalities in her physical structure that one wouldn’t have to look twice to know she was absurd.

I reached forth to the mother’s shoulder and said “She will be fine.”

For the first time, she managed to look up. I looked into her eyes. “My baby brother is hospitalized. He has had several blood transfusions. I pray he survives” I added.

“Oh! Sorry!” she said the in a coarse tone, trying to clear her throat. I knew she hadn’t been talking much, especially as she had no one but a segregating society. She appeared to be derelict to her fate. She must have found a friend in me, so she blinked as if trying to struggle with the tears forming in her eyes.

“Are you okay?” I asked. “No,” beginning to sob, not minding that would create a scene. Her baby too began to cry- as if persuading her mother that all would be fine- and for the first time, I heard her voice. The voice didn’t sound normal at all! It had a very penetrating sound, it sounded like the voice of a bird or some other animal.

Then the nurses around ordered her to take “that thing” away. “Can’t you see that you are disturbing others? Please take that baby out of here,” another added. I looked at them with disgust and as the young mother got up in dejection, still trying to calm her crying baby.

Her flannel fell, I picked it up. “Where are you going now?” I asked, as I got up too, following her. “I don’t know” she said in a sorrowful tone.

Minutes later, we were out of the building, sitting at on the pavement behind. I was now holding the child as she had felt comfortable with me. “… I’m so sorry, life can be so cruel,” I said, responding to her pitiful story. I had understood that she didn’t want to keep this baby because she was raped. I never heard her say she used abortion pills, but even if she had, I wouldn’t dare judge her. I tried to make her understand I understood her condition, I tried to show her I accepted them just the were they were. But just at the time I wanted to begin my own story, I heard them call my name. “That’s me. Let me go.” I handed over her daughter “I’ll be back,” I said, and she nodded.

The pharmacists took a while to hand in my drugs and by the time I was out, she had left! I searched around but couldn’t find her. I was saddened. You know when it’s like you have the privilege to give someone hope and you lose it. It pierced me deep! I got in to ask the same health workers who gossiped and some others, but their faces were not encouraging, it was like “what is our business with such a girl?” In my mind I said, “How inhuman you all are! May the ugly side of life happen to you and humble you to learn empathy!” So I left in anger, still hoping to find her along the way.

As I walked down to the section where my brother was, I remorsefully thought of how I would have told her how my family pulled through our days of predicament, when we found strength in weakening circumstances and love among us in the midst of an uncaring world; how we pulled through my sister’s cerebral palsy. “Why did she leave?” I questioned. “Lord please give her the courage to stand strong. Do not let her hurt herself or the baby. Send helpers of destiny her way. Help her to raise and bring out the best of her baby. Let her still become the woman her dreams.” These and many others I prayed… I never saw her again, but something tells that the little acceptance I showed gave her hope and that she and her baby are fine wherever they are now.

Each time we dress up and leave the house, we go out with our imaginary suitcases, that are indeed first aid boxes meant to save lives. We must open our boxes when we see those who need attention. Like the common first aid boxes contain cotton wool, bandage, methlylated spirit and the likes, our humanitarian first boxes contain empathy, acceptance, kindness, love and care. Whenever we find people who are in dire need of them, let us administer these contents lest they become hopeless and resort to self-destructive behaviours. Everywhere we go, we are positioned to be savers of the moment or helpers of destiny. When we chose to be those who look from a distance with disgust or people who will rather condemn, we are refuting our responsibilities and suppressing our capabilities. We are saying “No! We would rather be stumbling blocks than stepping stones.”

It’s funny how people inflict more pain on already hurting people. Sometimes we justify why they deserve their predicament when what they need is help. Who else can be more remorseful that the person who has made a terrible mistake that now affects his or her life? Who else needs peace than the one in crises? Why do we try to aggravate the challenges people go through? Why do we see them as people with problems or forbidden? In most cases, we were never there to help prevent them from getting into such challenging circumstances, so what reasonable role did we ever play in their life that gives us the standing to judge them? If we can’t help, why not we just pass without a word? Why do the strong suppress the weak instead of holding them up? The worst is when we feel that we are far better than them or consider them as inferior people. Do we have to stigmatize people with HIV, discriminate physically challenged people, segregate albinos, etc? If were like they, how would we feel about us? Truly, empathy is what we must employ at all times.

Empathy is not pity, it doesn’t magnify the problems people are facing, rather it makes them see that despite their plight, they are accepted and can be happy!  Empathy is showing understanding, love and care. With empathy, we would bring low self-esteem to the barest minimum and build self love in people facing challenging circumstances. We are supposed to offer them assistance and make them see the brighter side of life instead of demoralizing them. It is what we have the capacity to feel and use on others. Empathy does not profit us when we hoard it, but we often do.

It’s time to think of others; time to consider how it feels being in their shoes. Only then would we understand their condition and reach out to help them. There are many more people like that deformed baby and her mother, so let’s overlook what they must have done and reach out to them on grounds of empathy.

11 thoughts on “HOW TO CHOOSE EMPATHY”

  1. Thank you for dropping this well detailed and articulated work here. The story is touchy. Discrimination is something that our society must learn to curtail to the barest minimum. Sometimes our plans dont always work the way we want them to go. You have planted a seed in her the moment you gave her those sweet compliment. That will keep her going and someone who is as nice as you will definitely come her way. Life is in network and has a way of bring those beautiful things that will transform us our way.

  2. This is an amazing story and at the sane very touchy. You did your part by talking to her even though time was very limited. You did what nurses couldn’t do. You are a hero. Its sad that the people who are supposed to help, nurse and care for people are the ones breaking people. Nurses should do more. But thank God there are people like you. I hope I bring joy to the people I meet everyday. Thank you for sharing this experience.

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