What Burdens Is That Other Person Carrying?

This week, we want to share with you an article that we read recently. The article is written by Carl Richards and appeared in the New York Times. We’ve pasted the article in the body of the post, but you can also click to read the article here.

As you’ll see, the article is about empathy, and understanding that all of us will–at some time–be dealing with something that rocks us to our core. The trouble is that for most of us that pain is not always visible to others in the moment.

Despite all of the ways that we’re so connected in this day and age, we can still be so alone with our pain and grief.

 

“Ask Yourself This: What Burdens Is That Other Person Carrying?”

By Carl Richards

I was in the airport when I found out that the mother of one of my best friends had just died quite suddenly. She was at dinner with a friend, felt sick and was dead within a few hours.

I learned this through a message from my mom, who heard about it on the local news.

I called my friend. Imagine this scene for a second: There I am in Terminal 2 of the San Diego airport, calling someone whose mother had just died.

He answered. He was crushed. We cried.

His mom was one of the few people who always saw past my stupid behavior in high school. She always loved and accepted me, despite my being quite unlovable at the time. She gently influenced me to be better by not trying to influence me at all. She was amazing.

My friend knew that better than anyone. He told me about her last moments in the hospital. He told me about begging the doctor to do more.

Life. Is. Heavy. And then I boarded a plane.

I thought about everyone else on the plane. I wondered if the airline employee scanning my boarding pass could see that I had been crying. Were my eyes red? Swollen? I wondered if there would be room for my bag in the overhead bin. If the person next to me would be nice.

In that moment, I couldn’t help but think about how odd the situation felt. All around me were strangers. I knew no one. And as far as I knew, no one had any idea what I was dealing with.

I thought about the airline employee who had just checked my boarding pass, the man sitting next to me, the woman across the aisle. Did they have a sick child, or a friend in the hospital? Were they on that plane in a race against time? What about the person who had been yelling at the gate agent or, for that matter, those who were yelling on Twitter while I checked it standing in line?

As I turned away and stared at the Pacific Ocean through the little window from my seat on the plane, I was left with a bunch of grief and two big questions.

What burdens are all the people on this plane carrying? And how would I treat them differently if I knew?

 

As you go through your week, we encourage you to think about what might be going on with others around you. What was once deemed a soft skill, empathy is now recognized as a critical skill of successful leaders.

~Linda, Stephanie, and Heather

If you’d like support in Pausing to create better engagement with your teams,

contact us today about our Executive Coaching. We’re here for you!

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    Carpenter Smith Consulting

    Linda Carpenter and Stephanie Smith started Carpenter Smith Consulting in Portland to support individuals and teams who dream about having the power, impact and influence to create success and meaning in ... Read full profile
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