Maker of the Mobility Cart since 1994.
What does empathy mean to you?
Mobility Worldwide MO-Columbia update 10/6/17
What one word would describe the personal attribute most common to all Mobility Worldwide volunteers and donors? Would it be age? No, we are all ages. Would it be a certain faith? No, we are of many faiths and/or none. Would it be that we are affluent? No, some of us are affluent, but not all. Would it be gender, politics, education or nationality? None of those.
I suggest that the one attribute that all related to Mobility Worldwide possess could be described by the word “empathy”. My dictionary describes empathy as “…the projection of one’s own personality into the personality of another in order to understand him better.”
Several world religions, including Christianity, simply say we should “do unto others as we would want them to do for us in a similar situation”. We should “walk in another’s shoes…” before we judge them.
One of our first donors was a man in Illinois who wrote to say that he had polio, and could understand the plight of the leg-handicapped. Another donor was a man I met during my rehab from a heart operation. He was confined to a wheelchair, heard what we were doing, and started writing checks.
When we set up the present shop I put a number of photos of leg handicapped persons on their carts on the walls of the men’s toilet. One fellow said he was about to quit working at PET; but when he went to the toilet and sat there looking at all those people without legs he had to go back to building PETs. Empathy.
Empathy is a better word than “sympathy”. Sympathy says, “I am sorry. I’ll pray for you.” Empathy acts.
That is why those who go on distribution trips for the carts, to Guatemala or wherever, come back even more dedicated.
In my last trip to Nicaragua, I met a man named Benincio on a cart, who lost his legs totally to a landmine 40 years ago.
He has had to wear a colostomy bag since, and his medication and the materials that go with that are expensive and supported by Rainbow Network. Somehow that touched me deeply, and Barbara and I have assumed the cost of that. He and I write each other a few times a year and yesterday a report about him came from Rainbow. He is doing well. I have empathy for Benincio.
What one word? I think “empathy” is it.
“To understand another person is to imitate his feelings within ourselves.” – Friedrich Nietzche
Mel West, Director Emeritus
DBA Mobility Worldwide MO – Columbia