I gain empathy for a person immediately after I get to know them. We all do. That’s how it works.
But why wait until then?
I went to a Latin Jazz/Funk show because I felt the need to move around after a particularly heavy week. We got there early to beat the crowd and get a good spot right down in front.
Just as the second song started, two women, still carrying the cold in from outside, slid right in front of us. They looked at each other in victory and began dancing, their arms jutting up into my hard-earned view.
I stared at the back of them.
They were shorter than me, but one had big hair and was obstructing the bass player.
But the beautiful jazz, pouring out of brass and strings, was seeping in. It’s hard to be upset when you’ve been dancing.
I tried to find a way. What if she were a client? I thought.
Then I turned around and looked at the whole room. Wait a minute. Anyone in here could be a client. Or a future client. Or a client of someone I know. Or someone who thought about calling me to talk about something important, but didn’t at the last minute.
The drums picked up, the horns came at me like a freight train. And the music spoke to me. It said, “We go everywhere. We touch everyone.”
My empathy expanded like a glowing ball of light, like the unapologetic vibrations that spiraled out of the saxophone.
Empathy to the woman in front of me with the big hair. Empathy to the man behind me with his hands hitting my back every 5 minutes. Empathy to the bartender who ignored me. Empathy to the drummer, who seems nervous.
Empathy all around.
My circle of light grew wider and wider, crescendoing with the beautiful music that worked in tandem with me, coming out to assist, like the spirits in a seance.
The two women in front of me parted and I saw the bass player. He looked up for a second and we shared a smile. Both of us, alchemists, undoing the stress of others, erasing the outlines of things. He with his bass, me with my light.
Plenty of work to be done.
I’m with everyone tonight.