When I was a freshman in high school my mother was diagnosed with breast cancer. Just to be clear, she was able to fight it off and is currently living a healthy life, just so anyone reading this doesn’t have a false impression until the very end. When she was first diagnosed it was scary for the entire family, and she began her chemotherapy and radiation therapy shortly thereafter. My grades began to slip as I couldn’t focus on school very well with the trouble that was going on at home, especially with the amount of help that was needed around the house now that my mother was bedridden and could no longer be active in accomplishing the tasks that she used to.
I was talking in the street to my next door neighbor Jackie one afternoon and told her how I was having trouble focusing in class and keeping up with my grades at the same time as having to cook dinner for my family every night, going to the grocery store, cleaning the house, taking care of the dogs, and most importantly looking after my mother. Jackie explained to me that she had had to deal with her mother going through breast cancer for eight years, and that her mother fought it off. She assured me that everything was going to be okay. She could sense the stress and worry in my voice as well as my facial expressions, and she did a good job of calming me down, exactly how Bryan describes dealing with the teenage mind in this article. Her comments also made me feel more optimistic in that my mother was going to fight off the cancer and one day be healthy again.
Jackie told me that no matter what happens I needed to make sure my grades do not fall and that she would help me in every way possible. She reminded me that college was right around the corner and if I was to fail a class then I would not get to go to a four year school, and that my mother would be more upset about that than anything else. The next day, and for the following rounds of chemotherapy, every night that Jackie made dinner for her family she made enough to bring over to my house for my family to eat as well. The weight that this took off my shoulders seems minimal but at the time, not knowing how to cook whatsoever, this was an astronomical time saver for me with my busy schedule.
Jackie understood how much was on my plate with my mom being sick and really helped me gain control of my young stressed out teenage mind, exactly how this article portrays the relationship between stress and empathy. Jackie truly changed my perspective, I started focusing on my grades and putting them and my family first before anything. Understanding the struggles I was having from her dealing with the same situation so many years before allowed her to help my family and I greatly, even though cooking dinner for us at night seems minimal, it was huge. I was getting home from school at 6pm after practice with homework to be done, dinner to be cooked, dogs to be fed, and an extremely sick mother that needed to be attended to. Without Jackie’s empathy, I would have struggled greatly throughout my first few years of high school, but instead I was successful with my grades and taking care of my mother to wellness.
Jackie’s empathy is the reason that I was able to take care of my family properly, the reason I was successful in the high school classroom, and without it I would not have gotten into CU Boulder. Jackie communicated with me not just verbally but with her own actions. She portrayed her empathy with action. She greatly helped shape my future with simple compassion and empathy that will always be appreciated.